In time past, ahead of the yearly St. Valentine’s Day celebration, an estimated one million roses were exported from Nigeria to other countries by February 10, with a total of $1m accruing to farmers and exporters, The Guardian learnt.
But that is no more, as the country now relies solely on importation of the commodity from Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries, losing several millions in foreign exchange.
Though only few farmers have knowledge of the money-spinning potential of roses, it has been confirmed that roses have a great potential to generate regular income from exportation.
The Guardian learnt that Africa accounts for the bulk of roses exported to UK, Australia, China, Netherlands and others.
Report has it that the continent accounts for 85 per cent of roses sold in Netherlands, with Kenya and Ethiopia as the main suppliers.
Towards last year’s Valentine’s Day, more than 10.5 million rose stems were imported by Australia.
Figures from the country’s Federal Department of Agriculture show the vast majority of imported roses were sourced from Kenya.
Kenya is one of the world’s biggest exporter of roses, and according to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the nation’s floriculture industry earned $890 million (70.8 billion Kenyan shillings) in 2016.
The council’s website said flower farms in Kenya employed more than 100,000 people and were on track to expand greatly over the next five years.
The country, which is adjudged the fourth largest exporter of cut flowers in the world, accounts for more than half of all roses.
Some of the factors responsible for Kenya’s number one position as rose-growing country on the continent, according to horticulturists, include: low wages, favourable weather conditions and good infrastructural facilities.
The rising demand for the commodity is an indication that Nigerian farmers can maximise the opportunity to earn sustainable income and also reposition the country among roses producing countries.
The Pest Management Specialist, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Dayo Folorunso, told The Guardian that rose cultivation and exportation was a lucrative business in the country some years back, with the likes of Tony Farm, located in Lokoja, Kogi State tapping into the window of opportunity.
It was learnt that when the price crashed in the international market about eight to nine years ago, due to the incursion of the Chinese into the business, the farm recorded a colossal loss and since then has diversified into another line of cultivation.
Though he couldn’t give the figure of what the country exports then, Folorunso disclosed that roses can be planted anywhere across the country, based on the fact that Nigeria has favourable weather conditions.
He said: “The only challenge is marketability. When you cultivate with huge money and you find it difficult to sell at a price that is commensurate to your cost of production, you are bound to record losses and you may be discourage from going on with the type of business.”
A Lagos-based horticulturist, Emmanuel Eze, who confirmed that roses could be cultivated anywhere across the country, said starting a rose garden might seem daunting to new gardeners, but doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor.
He noted that with proper planting and care, nearly anyone could become a successful rose gardener.
“When growing roses, it’s important to choose a site receiving at least six hours of sun each day. Rose bushes must also be located in well-drained, fertile soil.
Plant dormant roses in early spring (or fall). Potted plants can be planted any time between spring and fall, but preferably spring.
If you’re planting bare root roses, pre-soak them in water for at least 24 hours prior to placing them in the ground.
“Both bare root and potted rose bushes need to be planted about two feet deep, with the hole large enough to accommodate the roots.
Backfill the hole with soil, adding some well rotted manure in it and water thoroughly.
Then mound up additional soil around the base of the plant. Note that this is not necessary for actively growing roses.”
He added that roses must be given at least an inch of water weekly throughout their growing season, beginning in spring or following spring planting.
While overhead watering is suitable before the onset of new growth, “it is often better to water these plants at the soil line using soaker hoses or similar means.
Rose bushes are very susceptible to fungal diseases, such as black spot and powdery mildew, especially when their foliage is kept too wet. Fertilizer for roses should also be applied in spring, following the label instructions carefully.
“However, with the addition of well-rotted manure each spring, this is usually adequate.
Mulching your rose bush will help retain moisture and may also offer some winter protection. Pruning is another aspect to consider when caring for rose bushes.
This often takes place once leaf buds appear in spring. Make cuts about 1/4 inch above the bud eyes and prune out any twiggy or unhealthy branches. Starting a rose farm is easy.”