KENYA – Kenya’s flower orders at the Royal FloraHolland’s auction in the Netherlands has dropped by 20% as European countries shifted priority to essential items such as food amid fresh lockdown due to resurgence in Covid-19 infections.

Kenya Flower Council (KFC) Chief Executive Officer Clement Tulezi said orders from the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom have fallen significantly, affecting performance of the Kenyan produce at the key auction.

“If flowers are not on shelves, buyers (retailers and supermarkets) are not placing orders until they are assured they will be able to sell,” he said, adding that they do not know for how long this will last.

The flower export business has this year been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with many orders being cancelled in main auctions such as the Royal FloraHolland from which planeloads of flowers from around the world are distributed from vast, air-conditioned warehouses in Aalsmeer, near Amsterdam airport.

This pushed growers to take up direct sales which also now stand threatened by a fresh wave of lockdowns in key European markets.

France and Germany have imposed countrywide lockdowns as UK announces a 14-day containment measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Mr Tulezi, however said they are in talks with partners in Europe to push for listing of flowers as essential products to sustain sales during the traditional peak season.

“Our partners are working with supermarkets and retailers to lobby governments to reverse the decisions,” he added.

He added that flower companies will be forced to downsize operations if exports drop.

Europe traditionally takes up more than 60 percent of Kenya’s horticulture produce exports.

Earnings from horticulture in the first eight months of the year rose to US$980 million fromUS$960 million in the same period in 2019, as more countries opened following the easing of restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

Kenya is the lead exporter of rose cut flowers to the European Union (EU) with a market share of 38%.

Approximately 50% of exportedflowers are sold through the Dutch Auctions, although direct sales are growing. In the United Kingdom, supermarkets are the main outlets.

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