Local flower farmers and exporters continue to bear the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic with reports indicating that the Dutch Flower Auction destroyed 11 million flowers yesterday.
Due to the pandemic, buyers have stayed away from the auction en masse bringing the Netherlands flower market to a near standstill.
With flower exports to the European country reducing to almost none, Kenyan flower farmers have been forced to trash ready flowers meant for export resulting in heavy losses.
Consequently, flower farms have been forced to send home tens of workers with fears that thousands could face job losses if the situation does not change fast.
“Farmers have had their orders cancelled and many have opted to reduce their shipping or put it on hold due to the uncertainty in the market.
We are losing around Sh10 million every day and have embarked on the process of sending seasonal workers home with permanent employees heading for leave,” said Kenya Flower Council chief executive Clement Tulezi.
Naivasha’s Maridadi flower farm, for instance, has already sent 150 workers home out of the total 750 saying it’s making Sh0.5 million in losses daily.
Maridadi owner Jack Kneppers who has employed 750 workers termed the current situation as worrying with the farm disposing over 230,000 stems and making Sh0.5m losses every day.
The seasoned farmer said that small-scale farmers are likely to run into bankruptcy in the coming weeks if the situation persists.
“The government has offered no support and has failed to pay value added tax refunds and the current crisis means major financial and job losses,” said Kneppers.
Maridadi workers representative Caroline Mengesa said most families in Naivasha depended on flowers for survival.
She expressed fear that most workers will be unable to take care of their families following the job losses.
Workers in the grading halls were the first to go home with a skeleton staff left behind to manage the farms.
“We have never seen anything of the kind in the past and we are fearing for our jobs and our prayers is that the coronavirus will be contained.
A last-minute Emirates flight cancellation last Sunday left 10 tonnes of flowers valued at Sh12 million to rot.
Many other flights have been cancelled in the recent past with similar, if not worse, consequences.
Ordinarily, flower demand in Netherlands would be rising at this time as buyers shop in preparation for Mothers Day which will be celebrated on March 22 in UK and Ireland.
Netherlands, sometimes referred to as Holland, is the largest flower market in the world and is a popular flower distribution point for the rest of Europe.
“At the moment, high-quality flowers and plants are being lost because trade is largely halted due to the corona crisis.
This is terrible to see,” Royal FloraHolland chief executive Steven van Schilfgaarde said in a statement.
“Last Friday 20 per cent of the supply had to be destroyed because there were no buyers. Forecasts for the next weeks are even worse,” he added.
Royal Flora Holland is a global flower company with operations in Kenya and usually auctions 30 million plants and flowers worth Sh1 billion a day.
Kenya is the world’s third largest grower of cut flowers, accounting for about 40 per cent of all sales in the European Union, according to the Kenya Flower Council.
Approximately 50 per cent of Kenya’s exported flowers are sold through the Dutch auctions.
In 2018, flower exports earned Kenya Sh113 billion making it one of the largest foreign income earners.
The horticulture sector as a whole (flowers, fruits and vegetables) earned the country Sh153 billion in the same year making it the third largest foreign exchange earner after Diaspora remittance (Sh272 billion) and tourism (Sh157 billion)
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