Kenya’s flower industry dying due to COVID-19

Most permanent staff have been sent home on annual leave, says head of Kenya Flower Council

By Andrew Wasike   | 27.03.2020
Kenya’s flower industry dying due to COVID-19


Kenyan flower farms are sending home workers due to the economic effects of the novel coronavirus.

The country’s horticulture industry -- its third-largest foreign exchange earner, garnering around $1.15 billion annually -- is suffering from lockdowns caused by the coronavirus in its main markets in Europe.

Clement Tulezi, chief executive of the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), told Anadolu Agency that most of the permanent staff have been sent home on leave while those that have remained are being paid to harvest and destroy flowers.

“We have been hit very hard, unlike other industries… say manufacturing that we can wait to see impacts in a week or a month. Ours is immediate,” he said.

"Europe generally takes up to 70% of our products, and therefore, any kind of lockdown has an immediate impact. As we speak, we are at less than 10% of our operations," he added.

The flower farms are harvesting and destroying the flowers "because we cannot ship them anywhere," said Tulezi, adding that there is very little going to Germany, the U.K. and Japan, but the rest of the markets are closed.

Workers sent home

Jacinta Wanjiku, who works at a flower farm in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley region as a seasonal flower grader, was sent home two weeks ago.

“We have not been at work for three weeks. We are afraid of tomorrow because in our industry, no flights mean no work for anyone -- from low-level employees like us to those who are high up,” Wanjiku said.

“As a single mother of two, the flower farms have been my life. I have nothing apart from this. This is my one and only livelihood that feeds and educates my family.”

The Kenya Flower Council estimates that it is losing around $300,000 a day due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tulezi said the long-term effect is the closure of farms as the industry wilts from losses.

“If we don’t have a remedy in the next eight weeks, you will see that happening. We have a workforce of about 150,000 excluding seasonal workers. Also, those who depend on this industry providing us with chemicals, fertilizer and energy among other things will be affected and rendered jobless.”

KFC says there is no demand for flowers in Europe and the Americas as countries remain in lockdown.

Kenya intensifies COVID-19 response

Kenya's COVID-19 cases have risen to 31, affecting five of the nation’s 47 counties.

Kenya's Health Ministry recently announced that 98 people who had been quarantined for two weeks had been discharged while 745 others are being monitored.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy have volunteered to take an 80% pay cut in order to cushion the economic effects that COVID-19 has had in the country. Kenyatta also announced mandatory pay cuts for dozens of top state officials to cushion the country from economic turmoil.

Kenya also announced a mandatory curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Friday with only 13 essential services being exempted, including health, media and emergency response personnel.

Kenyatta has vowed to impose a total lockdown if Kenyans continue to ignore measures introduced by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The government has also implemented 100% tax relief to increase disposable income as many continue to be inconvenienced by new regulations that require people to stay home.

It has also appropriated $95 million for the elderly, orphans and other vulnerable members of society through cash transfers by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to cushion them from the adverse economic effects of the pandemic.

Kenya on Tuesday received 25,000 test kits from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, which Kenya's Health Minister Mutahi kagwe announced would ease the testing of patients as the country can currently only test slightly over 300 people per day.

The country also received 100,000 masks and 1,000 protective suits and face shields for medics from the Chinese billionaire.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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