NFU horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst has attacked international development minister Hilary Benn for promoting Kenyan flowers over British-grown blooms.
Benn stated it was more ethically and environmentally sound to buy Kenyan flowers than those from Europe because growers in Africa use less heat and light in their production. He advised: “Reduce your environmental impact and help make poverty history. This is about social justice and making it easier, not harder, for African people to make a decent living.”
Hirst said: “He’s not looking at the whole production system. He’s suggesting Kenyan flowers have a better carbon footprint. But people working in the UK and Europe are paid significantly more than in Africa. There are also issues of water use. Are they working under the amount of regulations we are? I think not.
“My concern is that government ministers are holding forth on particular plant processes without looking at the system in depth.”
Research this month from Cranfield University with Sainsbury’s and World Flowers found that flowers grown in Africa used less energy than those grown in Europe.
But University of Leicester ecologist David Harper added that the flower trade is devastating Kenya environmentally. He said Lake Naivasha is being destroyed as workers flock to the fertile flower-growing region. He advocated a fair-trade system to raise money to improve the Kenyan environment.
Asda was selling roses at £2 for 12 on Valentine’s Day. The retailer said the flowers “all came from ethically approved sources in Kenya and Uganda”. It was also selling Grand Gala roses, grown at altitude in India, for the first time.
Kenya provides 31 per cent of Europe’s cut flowers. Air-freighted fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables from the whole of sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 0.1 per cent of total UK carbon emissions.
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