- Kenya is among the leading producers of flowers
- It’s however facing stiff competition from Ethiopia
Demand for flowers ahead of Valentine's is expected to rise by 30 per cent according to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC).
Despite the cold weather in Europe, the ongoing rains, and harsh economic times in the country, the council is projecting demand to hit 4,500 tonnes per week.
This came as the flower farmers through the council expressed their concern over the failure of the government to pay VAT refunds running to over Sh13 billion.
According to the council CEO Clement Tulezi, production in the sector was stable despite the ongoing rains in parts of the country.
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.
“Despite various challenges in the sector, we expect weekly exports to hit 4,500 tonnes by the second week of February as world preparers for Valentine,” he said.
Tulezi decried the move by the government to cap payment of VAT refunds to Sh10m 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.
“Every week the government is introducing a new tax or directives and this does not augur well with investors in terms of planning,” he said.
Tulezi said that the country had the capability of doubling its annual production in the next ten years if it received support from the State.
“Despite earning the country billions every year in foreign exchange, the sector has been largely forgotten with high taxes and high prices of electricity and fuel worsening the situation,” he said.
One of the top farmers, Jack Kneppers who is the MD Maridadi flower farm said that the cold weather in Europe could be a challenge ahead of Valentine.
Kneppers, whose farm is exporting over 1.1m stems of roses every week noted that due to the heavy snow in Europe, it would be challenging to access some of their consumers.
“The heavy rains in the country have affected production though the prices in the EU market have stabilized for the last couple of years,” he said.
The farmer called on the government to rethink the issue of tax holidays and waivers noting that other sectors like coffee, tea and sugarcane had benefited, unlike the flower sector.