On 30th March 2020, KEPSA launched a campaign dubbed “Flowers of Hope” under its Economic Framework for COVID-19 response. The campaign will be implemented through KEPSA members as follows: Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), Elgon Kenya, Kenya Airways and Jambojet with volunteer partners from Rotary Kenya and Women of Kenya Initiative.
KEPSA’s CEO Ms. Carol Karuga said that, “The campaign is informed by the realities brought forth by how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting world economies. Businesses in Kenya, particularly the cut-flower industry is confronting the harsh reality of the virus, which puts in peril one of Kenyan most successful and internationally acclaimed sector.”
In 2018, the floriculture sector earned the country KES 113 billion contributing around 1.07 per cent to the country’s GDP and is the fourth largest contributor of foreign exchange after diaspora, tourism and tea. The industry is inclusive consisting of both large exporters and small-scale farmers, and about 60% of Kenya’s flower farm workers are women.
‘To support this sector’ she added that, “We want to use Kenyan flowers as a uniting symbol of our community of solidarity and compassion emerging in Kenya and indeed the world as a response to the Covid-19 showing gratitude and support to the people at the frontline of or suffering from the pandemic, which will also help in saving thousands of farm jobs.”
According to data from KFC, sales of cut flowers in overseas markets are below 35 per cent of what we would expect at this time of the year. This is mostly driven by the European and United Kingdom markets whose local sales in florists have declined to almost zero. Retailers (supermarkets) are open for essential food stuff and cut flowers remain on the shelves.
Floriculture is a unique industry dealing in perishables. Flower plants need to be kept alive and healthy, otherwise, they will die, and the industry will lose its ability to supply flowers when the markets open up.
KFC noted that, “Every hectare of rose plants costs $100,000 and each plant is expected to last five years. The total area of roses under cultivation is in the region of 2,000ha and this alone represents an investment of $200million.”
Despite the lack of sales, growers must still water, fertilise and look after the flowers, otherwise, the plant deteriorates and will not deliver flowers in the future. Security must also be maintained to protect the farm infrastructure and people. Labour is still required to perform these tasks so that once the pandemic passes, production and sales can return to expected levels. These ongoing operational costs exceed by a clear margin of the revenue from reduced sales.
KFC CEO Mr. Clement Tulezi added that, “We care about the people we work with. The cut flowers sub-sector’s growth is hinged on the unique skills and dedication of our workers. We are determined to keep the skills after the crisis. We are committed to remaining a key player in creation of job opportunities for local people. Currently, we employ over 150,000 Kenyans directly and a further 500,000 from those who supply goods and services.”
“It is on the basis of the need to support our front line of defense and encourage them while also protecting over 4 million livelihoods that this campaign was born.” KEPSA’S CEO Carole Karuga added.
The campaign started on 30th March 2020 in Nairobi with the distribution of flowers in Kenyatta National Hospital, Mbagathi Hospital, Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Mama Lucy hospital, Mathare hospital and Spinal Injury hospital. It will then continue in other parts of the country in the coming days.
Kenyans and other citizens get involved by posting a picture of themselves with a rose with the campaign hashtag and a personalized message.