The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) has decried high taxes, lack of flights and poor weather patterns in Europe as the main challenges currently facing flower farmers ahead of Valentine’s day this Sunday.
While projecting that the sector which was hardest hit by Covid-19 would recover by the end of the year, the council pointed an accusing finger at the State for unfair tax regimes.
This came as the council noted that they were currently exporting only 75 per cent of their produce due to lack of enough flights and limited space.
According to the council CEO Clement Tulezi, the farmers were currently shipping out 4,000 metric tonnes of flowers every week.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
He noted that this had reduced by 1,000 metric tonnes due to lack of space adding that demand for the produce was on the rise despite strict lockdown regulations in Europe.
“The biggest challenge we are currently facing is lack of flights, poor weather in Europe and the ever-rising taxes in the country,” he said.
In a phone interview, Tulezi accused the State of unfairly targeting the sector which was among the top taxpayers in the country.
He noted that the recently introduced crop levy under the horticulture crop regulations would further affect flower farmers who were already over-taxed.
“The government is broke and the only way it can raise revenue is targeting organized sectors like the farmers with more taxes and this is one way of killing the sector,” he said.
This was echoed by one of the leading flower farmers in Naivasha Jack Kneppers who noted that taxes, flight charges and the cost of farm inputs had risen sharply.
Kneppers who is the MD of Maridadi flowers farm added that they were currently shipping over 300,000 stems of roses every day ahead of the lovers day.
“Our biggest worry is the weather in Europe where it’s snowing heavily and this might affect transport of flowers but we are happy that we are shipping everything out,” he said.
He noted that at the height of the pandemic, they had been forced to discard nearly all their production noting that this had changed with 95 percent of the roses being exported.
“Many of the families in Europe are indoors due to the lockdown and this has seen demand for roses rise this year compared to last year,” he said.
A manager in the farm Esther Waithera said that the farm had maintained all their workers despite the effects of the pandemic that saw some farms reduce their workforce.
She said that the farm was keen on health safety measures with workers observing social distance, wearing masks and washing hands frequently.
“There are some regulations on the amount and height of roses that we are shipping out but we are glad that our exports are better compared to last year,” she said.