The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) projects a gloomy Valentine for farmers due to the sharp rise in freight charges and fertiliser prices.
Despite a rising demand for flowers, the council says lack of cargo flights and lack of support from the national government has adversely affected production.
Data from the council shows that flower exports dropped to 160,000 tonnes of last year compared to 173,000 tonnes in 2020.
According to KFC chief executive Clement Tulezi, freight charges have shot up by more than 300 percent in the last two years, adversely affecting the exportation of flowers.
He said that while demand stood at 5,000 tonnes per week, farmers can only manage to export 3,000 tonnes due to lack of cargo planes.
“We are facing a major challenge in export of flowers due to lack of cargo planes and this has pushed the freight cost from 1.9 dollars to 5.8 dollars per kilo,” he said.
Tulezi attributed the drop in flower exports to the effects of Covid-19 pandemic and the stringent health regulations that left countries in Europe in lockdown.
“We recorded a slight decline in flower exports last year but we hope this will change once we get support from the government,” he said.
The CEO said that the floriculture sector is the second highest foreign exchange earner after tea but there is little support from the government.
He said that the president in his address to the nation last year promised the farmers Sh1.5 billion economic stimulus package to deal with the high cost of freight.
“Months after the promise we are yet to hear from the Treasury and high freight and fertiliser charges continue to be the biggest challenges for the sector,” he said.
Tulezi added that stakeholders in export of fresh produce met and came up with several recommendations including direct flights from the country to the market.
“The country has observed all the Covid-19 regulations meaning Kenya is safe and the government should release the Sh1.5 billion stimulus package to cushion farmers,” he said.
One of the leading flower farmers in Naivasha Jack Kneppers admitted that high fuel and electricity charges coupled with rising freight prices remained a major challenge.
Kneppers who owns Maridadi Flower Farm, said that prices in the EU market had stagnated for years despite the rising cost of production.
“Many of the farmers are yet to fully recover from the pandemic and the only way forward is through waiver of taxes on some farm inputs by the state,” he said.