March 20, 2020: Kenyan flower industry is likely to witness gloomy exports if disruptions caused by the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continue for two more months. Europe, seeing more Covid-19 infections and deaths than China where first cases were reported, has become the epicenter of the virus with countries ordering lockdowns and closing borders. This has hit supply chains for trading partners including Kenya, whose roses are popular at events including royal parties in the UK.

As per a Bloomberg report, farms are exporting only 20 percent of the 60 tonnes of cut flowers that they would normally send daily to markets including the UK, the Netherlands and Germany and the rest are being destroyed, according to Clement Tulezi, CEO of Kenya Flower Council.

“There is no demand in Europe. Almost the entire market has collapsed. Technically, our industry is on lockdown,” he cited.

If the situation continues, Kenya’s flower export earnings could drop by about half to 60 billion shillings ($571 million) or lower this year, according to the flower lobby. The flower industry could be forced to cut wages and trim its workforce of more than 150,000 people.

The time is a countdown to Mother’s Day in May in the US when flower growers hope the coronavirus will have come under control and potentially help bump shipments. That is after poor sales on Valentines’ day and expectedly muted demand on Mother’s Day in the UK, events that normally account for about half of the year’s exports.

In the meantime, the lobby has asked the government to quickly process valued-added-tax refunds that total of 9 billion shillings to help companies stay afloat, according to Tulezi. It has also asked the government to consider providing tax relief.

Kenya has confirmed seven cases of the coronavirus and restricted foreign travel and suspended school in a bid to reduce the risk of contagion within the East African country.

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