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A deserted grading hall at Naivasha-based Maridadi flower farm yesterday. The firm has sent home 150 workers as it is no longer exporting roses to Europe. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Fresh-cut roses have been dumped due to cancellation of orders in Europe.

More than 1,000 workers from various flower farms in Naivasha have been sent home as the financial crunch caused by the coronavirus epidemic deepened.

The most affected were seasonal workers who were sent home with two weeks’ pay amid warnings that their contracts could be terminated if the crisis continued.

Pensionable employees from the affected farms were sent on their annual one month leave as their employers monitored the unfolding situation.

Currently, flights to some EU countries affected by the virus have been suspended while the Dutch auction which is the main market for the country’s flower exports has collapsed with exports dropping by 50 per cent.

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Some farmers had been dumping flowers ready for export in their compost yard in the last five days due to cancellation of their orders from consumers in Europe.

According to Ferdinand Juma, the Kenya Plantations and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) secretary-general Naivasha branch, the situation was changing by the day.

Mr Juma said already, eight farms had been affected with fears the numbers could rise in the coming days.

“Since Monday around 1,000 workers have been sent on paid leaves while those on contract have been sent home for two weeks as their employers monitor the situation,” he said.

Juma admitted that the crisis had raised anxiety and fear among thousands of workers in Naivasha as their jobs were in jeopardy.

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“We have over 30,000 workers in various flower farms in Naivasha and currently the situation is worrying as very few flowers are been exported due to the coronavirus crisis,” he said.

Kenya Flower Council CEO Clement Tulezi said only 50 per cent of the country’s flower production was accessing the EU market.

“The exports are fluctuating daily but the average export is 50 per cent with the Dutch auction on Tuesday operating at 35 per cent,” said Mr Tulezi.

He said several farms had totally suspended shipping of their flowers following the crisis caused by the virus in several EU countries.

At Maridadi flower farm in Naivasha, over one million stems of roses which were destined for Holland withered in their dump composite.

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According to the farm owner Jack Kneppers, 150 workers had been sent home with fears that more could be shown the door in the coming days.

Mr Kneppers, who has employed 750 workers, termed the current situation as worrying with the farm disposing over 230,000 stems daily.

Workers’ representative Caroline Mengesa said they were in fear over job losses.

Flower farming Naivasha Coronavirus

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