As Rwanda's economy continues to grow, the government's plan to diversify the economy has seen it earmark 200 hectares of land in Rwamagana as a way of boosting the flower industry.
Floriculture is a relatively new business in the country that has been in its infancy stage for some years now and failed to blossom. The sector is facing challenges like lack of skilled staff, inadequate capital and constant price fluctuations due to a decline in international prices.
With the majority of the flowers grown for export due to the very small local market that flower growers can tap into, flower companies like Rwanda Flora and East Africa Growers had suspended their exports as they depend much on the European market that was facing a financial crisis. Due to recent improvements in the Euro-zone, the horticulture business is set to resume.
"We don't have enough local market to tap into which forces us to sell at give-away prices, most of our clients are people having weddings, burials and a few other functions which are limited to the weekend; daily purchases are almost non-existent," says Josephine Karungi, the owner of Rose Décor which sells flowers.
In addition, Europe is currently going through summer which means that African exports have to compete with locally grown flowers, resulting in lower global prices, unlike in the winter when there is no local supply.
With Frw 200 million earmarked to set up a modern flower park in the Eastern province, there is renewed confidence to improve floriculture and horticulture in general. The park will be equipped with water, electricity and green houses covering almost 50 hectares as a pilot project to attract more investors in the sector.
Flower farmers in Rwanda have been mainly growing pyrethrum which is used to produce insecticides and is only grown in three other countries which are Australia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Pyrethrum production grew from 209 to 700 metric tons last year, while the market share also increased from 6% to 15%. 8,000 farmers are involved in growing the flower.
This has also boosted the growth of Sopyrwa, Rwanda's only pyrethrum refinery which was on the brink of bankruptcy a few years back.
"Despite the growth in the ornamental sector, the government is promoting the growth of cut flowers. Currently farmers have been focusing on ornamental flowers (such as pyrethrum, ed.) but cut flowers are more lucrative and have a wider market," says Isaac Kamanzi, an expert with the National Agricultural Export board (NAEB).
He adds that they are still constructing greenhouses to grow cut flowers, and that by the end of the year production will have started.
Kamanzi notes that more than 100 Rwandans have been recently trained in Floriculture in a move to boost the skills of farmers in the industry seen as one of the future foreign exchange earners for the country.
According to him, the establishment of the cut-roses sector will provide job opportunities to the farmers and others in the floriculture sector as well as improving the trade balance of Rwanda and boosting of the economy.