Coronavirus effects trigger 70,000 layoffs by Kenyan flower farms

A Kenyan Flower farm. [Photo courtesy]

Coronavirus outbreak across the globe has it hard Kenyan flower farms forcing them to shed a fifth of their workforce, with 30,000 casual workers going home while 40,000 permanent staff have also been sent home.

The shredding of the workforce comes against the backdrop of reduced orders for flowers overseas occasioned by travel restrictions in the affected countries. The aftermath has been for companies to send home 150, 000 employees to cushion their ventures from the coronavirus aftershock.

“Only 50 percent of our nationwide workforce is currently working with the percentage expected to plummet to 25 percent in the coming two to three weeks,” said Kenya Flower Council chief executive Officer Clement Tulezi.

“If things do not improve then we project employee head counts to drop to 20, 000,” he remarked adding “We have seen a drop in demand for flowers in Europe and the rest of the world.”

The outbreak of the virus was a bigger blow to the flower sector after low sales in 2019’s auctions due to erratic weather patterns. Combined with the outbreak now, revenue had sharply declined.
Active markets remain in the United Arab Emirates and Japan.

In 2019, earnings from horticulture exports – fruits, flowers and vegetables – dropped by 7 percent to Sh142.72 billion from Sh154.7 billion occasioned by low prices of flower auctions in the Netherlands, a report by Agriculture and Food Authority cites.