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Coronavirus cuts flower exports by 20 per cent

A worker at one of the leading flower farms in Naivasha prepares roses for the EU market. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Kenya’s cut flower exports have dropped by 20 per cent as the Western countries lock economies to tackle the second wave of the coronavirus infections.

This comes months after the sector posted positive results as buying nations looked to manage infections and reopened their economies in phases.

The 20 per cent drop in orders at the auction market in Netherlands means the sector has to devise new ways to remain afloat during this pandemic.

“We are trying to lobby our international buying markets to allow the sale of flowers in supermarkets just like essential commodities, for us to at least continue supporting more than 100,000 people who are directly employed by the flower industry in this country,” said Kenya Flower Council Chief Executive Clement Tulezi in Nairobi yesterday.

In August this year, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics economic indicator showed that the value of cut-flowers dropped to Sh6.254 billion in May, compared to Sh9.384 billion in the same period last year.

This was largely attributed to lockdown imposed in the foreign markets.

According to the Kenya Flower Council, the country exports 70 per cent of its fresh flower cuts to Europe. However, the second wave of coronavirus could cut exports to these nations further.

In May, under the economic stimulus package, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a Sh1.5 billion to support flower and horticulture producers to access international markets. The cash was, however, rocked by controversies as various State agencies fought to be allocated the money. Exporters then expressed appreciation after the government issued them with VAT refunds.

“At least 70 per cent of VAT refunds have been paid to exporters and we are confident the rest we will be able to get it. This money has enabled us to remain afloat during this pandemic period and increase liquidity in the market,” said Tulezi.

Yesterday, the industry players flagged off by the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency launched their marketing strategy that will help the sector access new international markets. They pledged to ensure that the sector grows by 10 per cent annually to fetch Sh298 billion by 2021

“As an agency, we can only rely on the producers since our role is to facilitate exports growth in the targeted and emerging markets,” saidthe agency Chief Executive Wilfred Marube.

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