Demand for Kenya flowers on the export order has recovered to 97 per cent, with a significant rise attributed to spending during the valentine’s day celebration, new data has shown.
Data by the Monetary Policy Committee on the Market Perception Survey for flower farms conducted between March 15 and 17 with the main objective to assess the extent of recovery in the flower sector, revealed that the increment was a 44 per cent rise compared to the demand levels reported in April 2020.
“Exports of flowers have recovered to 97 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels, from 53 percent in April following low demand due to lockdowns in Europe, unavailability of cargo space, and high cargo space costs,” the Market Perception Survey statement released on Tuesday read.
According to the Central Bank of Kenya, some farms indicated that they had received orders above their contract volume which they could not meet.
At the same time, those surveyed indicated that their export orders were strong despite the uncertainty on the third wave of COVID-19, the discovery of variants of the virus, and the possibility of consequent lockdowns in key export markets and thereby possible cancellation of orders, especially for the farms that sell their flowers through the Dutch Auction.
“The average orders for the next four months (April- July 2021) were about 97 percent of the normal (pre- COVID-19) levels,” the report added.
The sector was largely affected in 2020 as Europe shut its borders and a lot of weddings were put on hold following the government’s limitations on public gatherings.
However, due to the recovery witnessed in the sector, the employment levels in the sector rose and exceeded pre-COVID levels averaging 120 percent in March 2021 compared to 113 percent in January 2021.
Those surveyed indicated that during the peak of COVID-19 in April 2020 most employees were either put on unpaid leave or proceeded on normal leave in adherence to the Ministry of Health protocols for containing the spread of COVID-19.
It is until the economies reopened when farms started recalling their workers in line with demand for the flowers internationally.
However, industry players said they continue to be constrained by the cargo space after capacity challenges arose from the restrictions of the passenger flights, that they were previously using to transport flowers to their export markets.
They are also concerned about the rising operational costs arising from the provision of protection against COVID-19 including sanitizers and the hiring of additional buses to transport their workers in line with the social distancing requirements.
As such, the players have urged the government to merge various regulatory bodies and reduce taxes and other charges levied by both the national and county governments.
The flower sector in Kenya is estimated to employ over 500,000 people, including over 100,000 engaged directly in flower farms as employees, and impacts over 2 million livelihoods indirectly.
The flower export has remained to be the country’s top foreign exchange earner generating nearly a billion dollar sales in 2019.