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Survey: Kenya's flower sector employs more workers, shows signs of recovery

BUSINESS NEWS
By Fredrick Obura | February 3rd 2021
Flowers packed for sale (PHOTO: File)

NAIROBI, KENYA: Business is back to normal in Kenya’s flower industry with the sector reporting an increase in the number of employees and an improvement in production and export, a new survey by the Central Bank of Kenya reveals.

The sector has increased its workforce to 113 per cent in the last two months in readiness for the peak season that runs from January to May.

The Survey collected data on changes in employment in the flower farms. In particular, respondents were requested to indicate the number of active employees engaged by the farms between July 2020 and January 2021.

Relative to the employment numbers by the farms in February, the Survey findings show that employment has recovered and exceeded the pre-COVID (February) levels, averaging 113 percent in December 2020 and January 2021, compared to 87 percent in November 2020, and 69 percent in April.

Respondents indicated that during the peak of COVID-19 in April most employees were either put on unpaid leave or proceeded on normal leave. All the workers have resumed work in strict adherence to the Ministry of Health protocols for containing the spread of COVID-19.

Production and export levels of flowers have also recovered to an average of 90 percent and 95 percent, respectively, of pre-COVID-19 levels.

Propotion of flower farms in operation (per cent of total)- Source CBK

According to the study, the expected export orders for flowers are strong, at about 97 percent of the normal (pre-COVID-19) levels for the next four months, despite the concerns over the second wave of COVID-19 and the discovery of new variants of the virus that may result in possible lockdowns in leading markets with possible cancellation of orders.

While the cargo space has increased, the freight costs remain high for the flower farms.

In this regard, the responding flower farms proposed that the Government could consider measures to support the sector, such as subsidising cargo space services and production inputs; reduce Value Added Tax (VAT) and accelerate tax refunds, and designate flower farms a Special Economic Zone to boost the sector’s competitiveness.

Responding flower farms indicated that the Government in collaboration with the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) has been helpful in raising awareness about COVID-19 in the sector through staff training; provision of car stickers to facilitate transport, and assisting with the processing of permits and exports.

“In order to reduce costs to the sector, the responding farms urged the government to merge various regulatory bodies and reduce taxes and other charges levied by both national and county governments.”

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