State blamed for slow growth of flower sector

 

A worker from Naivasha-based Maridadi flower farm works on roses for exports ahead of Valentine's day. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The country’s horticulture sector has stagnated over the past ten years due to failure by the government to support farmers through tax incentives and VAT refunds, a farmers' group has said.

According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the country has the potential of doubling its annual flower production and increasing foreign exchange with the support of the State.

This came as farmers, through the council, exuded confidence that they would export more flowers ahead of Valentine's despite the rains.

The council CEO Clement Tulezi accused the government of ignoring the sector which was the second foreign exchange earner after tea and which employs thousands of workers.

“Now and then the government introduces new taxes or directives and this does not augur well with investors in terms of planning,” he said.

He noted that unlike tea, coffee and sugarcane farmers who had every year received subsidies from the government, horticulture farmers had nothing to show for it.

“For years the horticulture sector which is one of the leading foreign exchange earners has been ignored by the present and previous regime thus stagnating growth,” he said.

Tulezi in an interview decried the move by the government to cap payment of VAT refunds to Sh10 million per month despite the Treasury owing farmers over Sh13 billion.

He noted that failure to repay the refunds had seen growth in the sector that employs thousands stagnate as the future was unclear.

The CEO however projected a rosy Valentine despite the cold weather that had seen an increase in some fungal diseases affecting production.

He said that the country had been exporting 3,400 tonnes per week of flowers with the numbers expected to hit 4,000 tonnes by the end of the week.

“The cold weather is affecting production of flowers but the farmers are meeting demand despite the harsh economic times in the EU which is our main market,” he said.

Jack Kneppers, the MD of Maridadi Flower Farm and one of the top farmers, said that the cold weather in Europe could be a challenge ahead of Valentine.

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