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Kenyan farmers blame drop in flower production on heavy rains

BUSINESS
By ANTONY GITONGA | December 28th 2015

Flower farmers in Naivasha have started to feel the impact of the ongoing heavy rains, with production dropping significantly.

One of the leading flower farms, Van Den Berg, has reported a drop of 20 per cent in production due to the cold weather that is associated with the rains.

The farm located along Moi South Lake road has 1,200 workers and produces over 600,000 roses daily. According to the farm's Managing Director, Johan Remeeus, the region’s flower farmers were now feeling the effects of the heavy rains, which have been pounding the lakeside town for a couple of weeks.

“Flowers do well in warm conditions but due to the cold weather caused by the heavy rains, we have seen production fall by around 20 per cent,” he explained.

On the market front, Remeeus reckons that for the last five years, the price of roses has remained constant despite rise in production cost. He noted that the once lucrative Russian market was no longer performing well due to its weak currency compared to the European market, which still remains Kenya's key flower market.

“The cost of labour continues to be the biggest challenge in flower production, while flower marker in Europe is stable,” he said.

Speaking at the farm, the senior manager admitted that Ethiopia continued to be Kenya’s largest competitor in the region due to subsidies offered by their government to farmers.

“We hoped that the just-ended World Trade Organisation meeting would have addressed the issue of subsidies to ensure fair play but this was never to be,” he said.

Remeeus was, however ,quick to note that the cost of electricity had come down in the last two months as promised by the Government. On his part, the farm human resource manager George Onyango called on the national and county governments to urgently address the issue of land lease.

He reckons that the issue was causing anxiety among many farmers as the 999 lease period had expired with some counties wanting to reclaim the land.

“We are calling on the commission for the implementation of the constitution (CIC) to come out and address this issue,” he said.

Onyango at the same time noted that double taxation was affecting flower farms with many suffering losses after counties imposed their own levies besides what the pay to the national government.

“Farmers by-passing one county to the other are being taxed twice and this is unfair practice that should be dealt with,” he said.

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