Nigeria is currently losing millions in foreign exchange, due to inability to harness the potential of the rose industry.
Though only a fraction of farmers could be said to possess the knowledge of the money-spinning plant, studies have confirmed that roses have a great potential to generate regular income for the country.
At this time of the year, when the yearly St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated, supermarkets and flower dealers rely solely on importation of roses, running into several millions of naira for brisk business.
According to reports, Africa accounts for the bulk of roses exported to the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Netherlands and others. The continent accounts for 85 per cent of roses sold in Netherlands, with Kenya and Ethiopia as the main suppliers.
Kenya is one of the world’s biggest exporters of roses. According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the country’s floriculture industry earned $890m (70.8b Kenyan shillings) in 2016.
The council’s website showed that flower farms in Kenya employed more than 100,000 people and were on track to expand the market in the next few years.
The country, which is adjudged the fourth largest exporter of cut flowers in the world, accounts for more than half of all roses, according to reports.
According to industry players, Kenya’s success, which positioned it as the number one rose-growing country on the continent, is linked to the country’s favourable weather conditions, low labourer wages, and good infrastructural facilities.
While some horticulturists and experts claim the rising demand of the commodity, can be maximized to boost income of farmers and also earn foreign exchange, some stakeholders say it will be difficult for the country to meet local demand, not to talk of exportation.
A garden Designer based in Lagos, Mrs. Ireti Ogunlesi, who said Nigeria can generate billions of naira from the industry, identifies lack of support – finance and conducive environment, unavailability of land, pollution, epileptic power supply and thirst for foreign products by Nigerians, as major challenges killing the industry in Nigeria.
She said: “If we are serious, this is a billion dollars industry; we have to set aside proper investment. The revenue Holland is making from Nigeria is huge, not just on roses but from other types of flowers they are importing into the country.
“I know of some of the roadside horticulturists that have built houses, is that not a serious business? They pay their house rents; they sponsor their children to school and they are living well. I am in dire need of gardeners now, but there are none because there’s no vocation or training for gardeners, because people don’t take it seriously. To generate income from the industry, we need to take it seriously as a business.”
While emphasising the need for support from the private sector, government and corporate organisations, Ogunlesi said: “The problem is largely lack of support; there is nobody to support the rose cultivation industry. For instance, I live in Lagos, if I am going to grow the roses, where am I going to get the land as all the land in Lagos are set up for buildings.
“Pollution is a major challenge, every house have a generator or two. I live in Ikeja and there are many banks in my neighborhood, bank runs on generators from morning till night when they close, so the air is heavily polluted. At night we no longer see stars like when we were small, which shows the extent of the pollution and this will not allow roses to grow properly. Roses need a controlled environment to grow, in order to compete favaourably in the outside world.
“I noticed that it’s not only oil and other areas of focus in Nigeria that we can generate income; flower cultivation is a big booming business. How many individuals can set up a greenhouse? The smallest greenhouse that I priced in Oregun, in Ikeja two years ago was N5m, how many individuals selling plants could afford the N5m to buy greenhouse for the cultivation of flowers?
“We need a lot of inputs for the sector, not necessarily from government, what is wrong with the body of the chartered accountants, what is wrong with the body of bankers or individual banks on their own and philanthropists? If we are a serious economy, this is a billion dollars industry,” she said.
A Deputy Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Ndubueze Okeke, who also confirmed that the country has the potential to earn money from the industry, wondered why Nigerians refuse to exploit the benefits.
According to him, certain things – infrastructure and awareness about the inherent benefits of the product must be put in place if the country is going to make any success from the industry.
“Rose export is not really our comparative advantage because before you plant such flowers you have to check your climatic condition. The only place we have temperate region is Jos, Plateau State and Mambilla Plateau, Taraba State. And areas like Taraba don’t really dwell so much on this because it’s not part of our culture.
“If you now say you want to cultivate and export it, you have to learn it from countries that have been doing it like Kenya, Ethiopia or South Africa because of the nature of their weather. The potential might be there, but we must ask ourselves, why are we not exporting tea, why are we not exporting coffee… we dwell on our traditional export – cocoa, ginger, cashew, and hibiscus flowers.
“Nigeria can export rose and other things if we put the right things on the ground, it needs areas like Mambilla Plateau because it’s very cold, that’s why Kenya is doing well and Ethiopia too because the place is unusually cold. These are the factors that must be considered for the rose cultivation, to transform the industry.”