By Mary Mwende Mbithi
Though a happy day painted Red in colour, with overwhelmingly high expectations, this year’s Valentine’s Day might not have been so rosy for flower farms in Kenya. Like it has always been the norm, most flower farms have always looked forward to cash in on the day, but this year there was nothing to smile about.
Having experienced the biting jaws of the pandemic and almost shaken to its roots, the flower industry is struggling to resuscitate amid prevailing challenges. The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) in a statement said that the adverse effects of the pandemic saw the country’s export of flowers go down by 10% in the year 2021. As of now, the industry is almost on its feet despite hitches here and there.
Besides the lockdowns and curfews that almost crippled the industry during the onset of the pandemic, new setbacks have continued to add salt to the injury. According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Kenya recorded a decline in flower production with the country producing 160,000 tonnes of flowers last year (2021) compared to 173,000 tonnes in 2020.
All in all, the government is yet to release the promised Kshs. 1.5 billion stimulus package designated to cushion the farmers from the eventualities of the harsh economic times. The cost of farm inputs has also shot up, making the cost of production a thorn in the eye of the flower industry.
Fertilizer prices too have continued to sky rocket whereas the European Market flower prices have remained stagnant for a couple of years. This leaves the farmer with high production costs thus affecting the profit margins immensely.
The soaring freight costs as well as shortage of cargo planes and space is another drawback in the cut flower sector. According to KFC there is a rising new demand for flowers though farmers cannot clinch the daily targets due to freight issues. Growers can only manage to export 60% of the market weekly demands. KFC CEO, Clement Tulezi said that the sector is engulfed by a myriad of challenges in export of flowers to their destination markets. “We are facing a major challenge in exports of flowers due to lack of cargo planes and this has pushed the freight cost from 1.9 dollars to 5.8 dollars per kilo,” he said.
Similarly, double taxation and introduction of new levies have also impacted the flower industry. Taxation by the national as well the county governments has actually ripped off the profits of the industry with new taxes being introduced day in day out, Farmers have had to pay through the nose as 45 different levies to national and county governments such as the offloading fee in Nairobi have been stipulated.
Lest we forget, the flower industry is a key employer with around 500,000 employees and over a million suppliers as well as a vast market share that spans around the globe. Therefore it is better to arrest the situation before things get out of hand for this promising sector.