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Flower farm workers sent home as coronavirus wipes earnings

By Antony Gitonga | March 17th 2020 at 15:08:46 GMT +0300

The empty grading hall at the Maridadi flower farm, it has sent home 150 workers (Photo: Antony Gitonga)

Tens of flower farmworkers have been sent home while thousands are staring at job losses as effects of coronavirus hit Kenya.

With flight cancellations and the collapse of the Dutch auction, farmers opt to dispose of flowers worth millions of shillings and close down various departments.
According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the sector’s most affected staff are those on contracts. It estimates the sector’s to be at Sh10 million per day.
In Naivasha which is home to over 60 farms, workers embarked on the painful process of dumping ready flowers meant for export as others headed home with their fate unknown.
According to KFC CEO Clement Tulezi, currently, only 50 per cent of the country’s flower production was accessing the European Union (EU) market.
“The exports are fluctuating from day to day but the average export is 50 percent with the Dutch auction on Tuesday operating at 35 per cent,” he said.
He said that several farms had suspended shipping of flowers following the crisis caused by the Coronavirus in several EU countries.
“Farmers have had their orders canceled and many have opted to reduce their shipping or cancel it due to the uncertainty in the market.”
“This means that we are losing around Sh10m every day and we have embarked on the process of sending seasonal workers home while those on permanent employment are heading for leave,” he said.
In Maridadi flower farm in Naivasha, over a million stems of roses, which were destined for Holland withered in their dump composite site as the heap, rose by the day.
According to the farm owner Jack Kneppers, they had already sent home 150 workers with fears that the rest could be shown the door in the coming days.
Kneppers who has employed 750 workers termed the current situation as worrying with the farm disposing over 230,000 stems and making losses of Sh0.5m every day.
“In the last four days we have disposed all the days’ collection in the compost yard and already we have sent home 150 workers due to the crisis caused by the coronavirus,” he said.
The seasoned farmer projected that small-scale farmers would run into bankruptcy in the coming weeks if the situation persisted.

Kenya Flower Council Retrenchment
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