Roses, Tea & Fruits: a check at Kenya’s Top 8 Exports

Less than three years since the last World Factbook published by the Central Intelligence Agency showed flowers, tea and coffee to be the epitome of all exports from Kenya, here is a recheck at how things stood in the last financial year, 2017. In general, the horticulture sub-sector of agriculture brings approximately $1 billion yearly. This is about 1.45 percent of the national economy. The figures for 2013 were exactly $1 billion while those of 2016 were $988.4b.

Tea and Coffee, often classified with spices are the highest single earners of foreign revenue for Kenya. According to the World Factbook data of 2015, the three provided about $1.4b of total returns. They represented 26.1 percent of all exports. Tea alone raked in $931.878 million of the value. In 2017, tea exports dropped by 17% over the previous year’s margins. By the third quarter 2017, the country had exported 320 million kilos of tea, with the main destinations being Britain, Egypt and Pakistan.

In 2015, the World Factbook placed flowers as the second biggest foreign revenue earner at $716 million. This figure represented not just cut blooms but live plants and trees. In 2017, the total flower exports minus the other plants equalled those of 2016, at $690 million. They clocked at least there quarters of the total exports in horticulture. The flower sub-niche represents 1.01 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Roses together with orchids are the biggest exports in the flower niche.

Vegetables are the fourth biggest generator of foreign revenue for Kenya after the non-agricultural mineral fuel sector at position three. Vegetables accounted for $281.9m of the total sales overseas in 2015. The biggest sales come from spinach, kale, cabbage and broccoli which go to Holland and the UK. In the second quarter of 2017, however, the vegetable sector saw a drop of 15 percent over the 2016 similar period’s sales. The total exports in June 2017 were $106.39 million, a depreciation of 15 percent.

The fifth top export from Kenya is non-agricultural, namely raw textile products like unwoven yarn. They represented close to $214 million of all exports in 2015. The sixth export is knit fabric which accounted for 3.4 percent of the country’s foreign sales. The latter comprises both knitwear, fabric and accessories from the cotton industry. The raw materials come mainly from Tana River and other parts of the country.

The seventh biggest export comes from the agricultural sector, namely fruits. In 2015, they accounted for $150.8m of all overseas sales. By mid-2017, the value of fruit exports had appreciated by an overwhelming 23.95% over the 2016 sales to represent $579.58 million worth of half-year foreign revenue. The major exports in the category include citrus fruits (lemon, orange and grape) together with pineapples.

The eighth major export is also agricultural-related. Fruit concentrates, by-products, processed nuts and vegetable oil represented 2.6 percent of foreign revenue in 2015 or $142.2 million. In 2017, new major exports especially to the EU included macadamia nuts. These have become the next major crop in the market. Processed oils like avocado and olive as well as natural fruit juices are also becoming major sources of revenue due to the rise of new strategic processing plants.

The last two in the top ten Kenya exports are non-agricultural goods.They include slug and ash with an export value of $137.7m, from the 2015 statistics. Mined salt and stone exports represent about 2.2 percent of the total sales across Kenya’s borders and close the ten biggest exports. Though it is in the service industry, tourism remains the third biggest foreign revenue earner after tea/coffee and the combined horticulture produce.