NAIROBI, April 19 (Reuters) - Kenya earned 115.25 billion shillings ($1.15 billion) from exports of cut flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables last year, 11 percent more than in the previous year, an industry association said on Thursday.
Fresh produce exports are a key source of hard currency for the East African economy, along with tourism, cash sent home by Kenyans abroad and coffee and tea exports.
Okesegere Ojepat, the chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC Kenya), said cut flowers accounted for 70 percent of the earnings with the rest coming from fresh fruit and vegetables.
He said the sector had shown resilience in the face of a drought, a drawn-out presidential election and sluggish private sector credit which curbed Kenya’s economic expansion last year.
The fresh produce industry faced several challenges including high costs of production and insufficient cooling facilities, Ojepat said.
Farming is the biggest sector in Kenya’s economy, accounting for about 30 percent of annual output and employing more than half of the population especially in the rural areas.
$1 = 100.1500 Kenyan shillings Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Adrian Croft