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Flower farms send 120,000 workers on forced leave

By Antony Gitonga | March 28th 2020
Workers from Maridadi flower farm in Naivasha collect ready roses for dumping in the compost yard due to lack of market. The farm is dumping over 230,000 roses every day. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

More than 120,000 flower farm workers have been sent home in the last two weeks due to the current economic crisis caused by coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the sector which employs an estimated 150,000 people is operating with approximately 15 per cent of its workers.

The council is warning that farmers could be forced to send the remaining workers home in coming months if the situation mainly in Europe, which is their main market for their products, does not improve.

Council CEO Clement Tulezi said the workers are home on a one month paid leave as their employers monitor the situation.

Mr Tulezi said since the collapse of the Dutch auction, the only markets available was Germany, Russia, Japan and selected supermarkets in the UK. “We have been forced to send on paid leave 80 per cent of our workers as we monitor the situation,” he said.

The CEO admitted that the farmers could be forced to take drastic actions in the coming weeks if the situation does not change with layoffs as one of the options.

Tulezi at the same time decried lack of support from the government noting that their proposals which are meant to caution the farmers had not been addressed.

He said that they are owed over Sh9 billion in tax-refunds by Kenya Revenue Authority adding that this would come in handy if wholly released.

“The government released on Sh10 billion for tax refunds for all industries in the country and this is too little but we hope that the sector due to its current situation will get first priority,” he said.

Tulezi added that they had proposed for the zero-rating of on all farm inputs, waiver of PAYE and corporate tax as some of the measures meant to save the sector.

On his part, the proprietor of Maridadi flower farm, Jack Kneppers termed the Sh10 billion VAT refund released by the government as a drop in the ocean.

“Many of the farms have been forced to send workers home due to the current crisis and the VAT refunds which have not been paid for years could come in handy at these tough times,” he said.

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