The soil-to-vase value chain for the flower industry is extremely time-sensitive and vulnerable to physical conditions. The processes from post-harvest to retail must take place as quickly as possible to ensure the freshness of flowers are preserved. However, care must also be taken to ensure that flowers are sorted and inspected adequately, kept in cold conditions and well packaged to minimise damage.
There are two main variations of value chains in the African floriculture industry: one for large-scale flower production and one for small-scale floriculture. Large-scale producers are vertically integrated across the whole floriculture process. Small-scale farmers normally sell their products to larger distribution and sale companies with offices in their countries, who transport the products to markets abroad.
STAGE 1: FARMING
Land preparation – the soil is prepared to ensure the right nutrients are in place. It is then tested. The soil must possess a pH level of between 5.5 and 7 for the cultivation of roses, have good drainage properties, and be well lit.
Planting of the flowers
PRUNING, WEEDING, SPRAYING – roses must be watered three to four weeks after planting. They are pruned regularly.
FERTILISERS – in the case of roses, fertilisers are added three months after planting.
COSTS – Production costs are heavy. For example, in Africa, production costs for roses can be between $100,000 and $160,000 per 10,000 metres squared of greenhouse.
STAGE 2: POST HARVEST
SORTING – flowers are sorted by quality and size, depending on market specifications (for example, into 10s, 20s, 25s or 50s)
CLEANING – they are cleaned to ensure that they are presentable for the series of inspections that they must pass. The flowers are also normally trimmed to the same length at this stage.
GRADING/INSPECTION – the flowers are graded according to their quality (based on freshness, colour intensity, etc.).
PACKING – the flowers are packed into boxes, which are specially designed to minimise damage when being transported.
TRANSPORT TO AIRPORT – they are then transported to the airport in refrigerated containers to ensure their preservation.
STAGE 3: TRANSPORT TO MARKETS
AIRFREIGHT TO MARKET – a number of major airlines are heavily involved in the transport of flowers to market countries. The cost is typically $1.50-$2.05 per kilogram (on average $0.14 per rose) for Ethiopian and Kenyan roses.
STAGE 4: DISTRIBUTION
AUCTION INSPECTIONS AND REJECTIONS – when the flowers reach auction, low-quality flowers or flowers which have been damaged en route are rejected. If everything has gone to plan, this normally brings the total amount of wastage to no more than between 3% and 5% of those that passed inspections at post-harvest stage.
AUCTION – when they reach auction, floral company products are then purchased by buyers.
REGIONAL DISTRIBUTION – the transport of the flowers in refrigerated conditions is as rapid as possible to ensure that the flowers stay as fresh as possible.
STAGE 5: RETAIL
ASSORTMENTS AND ARRANGEMENTS – normally at the retail stage flowers are sorted and made into different arrangements to make them appealing to customers.
STAGE 6: CONSUMPTION
PURCHASE – the customer will then purchase the flowers, taking cost factors and intentions for use into consideration.
USAGE – The possibilities for final use for the flower products are diverse, however, normally for decorative or for gift purposes.
TOTAL COSTS – $100,000-150,000 per 10,000 metre cubed of greenhouse (excluding sale and marketing costs).
TOTAL PROFIT MARGIN – typically varies between 10% and 20%.