TOUGH TIMES

Flour or flower: Kenyans' economic dilemma this Valentine

Traders are scared that orders are not coming through.

In Summary
  • The high cost of living and general slowdown in economy has made lovers less upbeat about the Valentine Day to be marked Friday.
  • Hotels are also feeling the heat of harsh economic times, with very little booking reported.
A flower vendor sells flowers made for St Valentines day at Moi avenue on 13th feb 2020.
A flower vendor sells flowers made for St Valentines day at Moi avenue on 13th feb 2020.
Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI

On Tuesday, I eavesdropped on a conversation between a vegetable seller and a customer at an informal market in Gachie, Kiambu County.

''A single tomato retailing at Sh20, a two kilo packet of maize flour going for Sh130. Ni mapenzi ama machozi hii Valentine? (should we love or cry this Valentine),'' the buyer lamented. 

''Ni kugumu kila mahali (economy is tough everywhere),'' the seller responds as she  tried to locate  the smallest tomato  from  the heap, as the buyer had only Sh10. 

As the buyer left the stall, she shouted ''hii Valentine ni ya njaa'' (too much hunger this Valentine).

The high cost of living and general slowdown in economy has made lovers less upbeat about the Valentine Day to be marked Friday.

Although the country's inflation eased slightly  in January to 5.78 per cent down from 5.82 in December, food prices skyrocketed amid subdued income, forcing households to make tough expenditure decisions. 

Lawrence Muhanji, an employee at a global real estate agency says he is left with less cash for subsistence use from  his January salary, hence no plans for the lovers day. 

''Food, school fees, rent and other household expenses took almost 90 per cent of my salary.  My family will be lucky to have vegetables on that day, flowers and niceties are for the rich,'' he said. 

A guard at commercial building in Nairobi CBD has neither time nor budget for the lovers day. 

''I have limited time dedicated for my daily job. The cost of living is high, no room for excesses like flowers and cakes,'' he said.

Jane Kalekye, a banker in Nairobi's Westlands has been buying gifts for her husband on Valentine Day since 2011. She is however not sure if she will afford this time round.

''I don't know what is happening to our economy. I used to afford a bottle of wine or cologne. Last year, I could only manage a pair of boxers. The situation is toughening every year,'' Kalekye told this writer. 

Traders are scared that orders are not coming through. 

A spot check  at popular flower stalls in Nairobi revealed minor activities compared to previous years, with traders complaining of low orders .

Jeremy Mwai who sells flowers at General Mathenge Junction along Peponi Road yesterday told the Star that he was yet to receive any order, a situation he described as 'alarming'.

''I have sold flowers at this spot for seven years now. Orders start trickling in on February 2. This year is uniquely alarming. Not even an inquiry,'' Mwai said, hoping for a rush hour orders. 

Anne, who trades her wares at Nairobi's City Market wondered how this year's Valentine Day will turn out, considering she had so far received lowest orders in five years. 

She also complained about sharp increase in flower prices, wondering if buyers will be willing to part with Sh50 for a stem of rose flower and Sh2500 for larger banquets. 

Last year, a stem was going for Sh30. The rise is attributed to excess rainfall witnessed since September last year. 

Hotels are also feeling the heat of harsh economic times, with very little booking reported.

Kioko Musyoki, general manager Leopard Beach  Resort in Diani told the Star that although they have a 60 per cent booking, very few visitors are from the leisure segment.

''We are witnessing quite activities here at Leopard Beach  Resort. However, most of guests are originating from conferencing. We can't link the good number on low season to Valentine Day,'' Musyoki said.  

Flower vendors sells flowers made for St Valentines day at Moi avenue on 13th feb 2020.
Flower vendors sells flowers made for St Valentines day at Moi avenue on 13th feb 2020.
Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI