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Floriculture sector to fully recover by June 2021

Sector currently operating at 70 percent

In Summary

•Flower exports which were hard hit in the second quarter of the year have however started to pick, with exports currently at an average 70 per cent.

•There are over 100 flower farms in the country.

The General Manager Flower Business Park (FBP) in Naivasha James Waweru in Panda flower farm which employs over 1,000 workers. The management of the park has announced plans to expand its operations starting next year.
FLower production The General Manager Flower Business Park (FBP) in Naivasha James Waweru in Panda flower farm which employs over 1,000 workers. The management of the park has announced plans to expand its operations starting next year.
Image: George Murage

It will take close to one year for Kenya's floriculture sector to fully recover from effects of Covid-19, industry players have said, calling on government to release funds meant to cushion the industry.

The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) is projecting the sector will be back to its peak by mid next year.

Flower exports which were hard hit in the second quarter of the year have however started to pick, with exports currently at an average 70 per cent.

This is from a low of 30 per cent recorded at the height of the pandemic, which saw the collapse of the Dutch auction and lockdown in Europe.

The low moments were also marked with cries from industry players, who had blamed the national government for remaining non-commital to support them,  mainly on addressing high freight costs.

More than 1,000 workers at flower firms were also sent home during the period.

Yesterday, KFC Chief Executive Office Clement Tulezi said the sector was on the recovery trail with the EU market opening up following the recent lockdown.

Speaking in Naivasha after meeting stakeholders, Tulezi noted that the only drawback was the slow recovery at the Dutch auction.

“We are projecting that we shall recover by June 2021 and already farmers have recalled their entire workforce following the troubled period,” he said.

High freight charges are however still depressing exporters, where airlines are said to have doubled prices, as they seek to capitalise on cargo as passenger operations remain low.

The government is also yet to release the Sh1.5 billion stimulus funds towards cushioning flower farmers from the effects of pandemic, KFC has noted.

“We wanted the funds to be used to cushion farmers from the high cost of flight charges but the government is non-committal to this,” he said.

Tulezi noted that the pandemic was an eye-opener to the sector, predicting mergers of farms and possible closure in the near future.

“Covid-19 has exposed our vulnerability and we shall have to address and reduce the cost of production so as to survive,” he said.

Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) CEO  Hosea Machuki noted that despite the pandemic, revenue from vegetable and fruits had increased.

This reflects President Uhuru Kenyatta's sentiments on Wednesday where he noted an increase in exports compared to last year, mainly by fruits and horticulture farmers.

According to the President, horticulture earnings rose to Sh81 billion between January and June, 2020 compared to Sh76 billion for a similar period in 2019.

Earnings from fruits alone nearly doubled from Sh7 billion to Sh12 billion.

"Exporters too are re-tooling and turning the challenge into promise," President Uhuru said during his eleventh adress to the nation, on Covid-19.

Yesterday, Machuki projected fresh produce revenues are likely to jump to Sh15 billion by the end of September.

“The pandemic adversely affected the agriculture sector but the exports of vegetables and fruits earned the country Sh81 billion at the height of the crisis,” he said.

Hosea has however termed the high freight charges and moths, as two major challenges that could hinder the sector from attaining its potential.

“We have seen an increase in the number of interceptions of export produce in the EU and we are working with KEPHIS to address this,” he added.