Kenya sends flowers to UK for Covid-19 response

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Nairobi, April 24, 2020.  A proposal mooted by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta to send flowers from the country to healthcare facilities  in overseas markets has finally bloomed as the first consignment is flown to London tonight by national carrier, Kenya Airways.

On receiving the proposal, the President set up committee chaired by Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred  Matiang’i to lead KEPSA,  the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Kenya Airways  and the  Kenya Flower Council to implement the plans.  Other KEPSA members like Elgon Kenya Limited, Flamingo Flowers Ltd and various other growers are involved.

The team requested  the Head of State  to write the goodwill message on the sleeves. The message reads:  There have been a few moments in history when the world has faced a crisis as far-reaching an consequential as this. It is exactly at moments such as this that we must display our humanity, perseverance and hope. Whatever the adversity, no matter the foe, we shall triumph together. We stand united. Tuko Pamoja. From Kenya with love – H E Uhuru Kenyatta

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 The campaign is dubbed “Flowers of Hope” under the KEPSA Economic Framework for COVID 19 response. The  Kenya Flower Council, Elgon Kenya Limited, Flamingo Flowers Ltd and various other growers are involved.

 It kicked off the  flower caravan early this month by distributing flowers to selected hospitals in Nairobi. Kenyatta National Hospital, Mbagathi Hospital, Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Mama Lucy hospital, Mathare hospital and Spinal Injury hospital are among the health facilities covered and the initiatives continues inother parts of the country .

The international leg of the initiative will see some 300 bouquets of flowers touch down at Heathrow Airport , received by a representative of the British government and picked by Flamingo UK,  for distribution to  old age care homes and hospitals in London.   

KEPSA’s Chief Executive Officer Ms. Carol Karuga said, “The campaign is informed by the realities brought forth by how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting world economies. Businesses in Kenya, particularly the cut-flower industry is confronting the harsh reality of the virus, which puts in peril one of Kenya’s most successful and internationally acclaimed sectors.”

In 2018 the floriculture sector earned the country KES 113 billion contributing around 1.07 per cent to the country’s GDP and is the fourth largest contributor of foreign exchange after diaspora, tourism and tea. The industry is inclusive consisting of both large exporters and small-scale farmers, and about 60% of Kenya’s flower farm workers are women.

‘To support this sector’ she added that, “We want to use Kenyan flowers as a uniting symbol of our community of solidarity and compassion emerging in Kenya and indeed the world as as

response to the Covid-19 showinggratitude and support to the people at the frontline of or suffering from the pandemic, which will also help in saving thousands of farm jobs.”

According to data from Kenya Flower Council, sales of cut flowers in overseas markets are below 35 per cent of what we would expect at this time of the year. This is mostly driven by the European and United Kingdom markets whose local sales in florists have declined to almost zero. Retailers (supermarkets) are open for essential food stuffs and cut flowers remain on the shelves.

Floriculture is a unique industry dealing in perishables. Flower plants need to be kept alive and healthy, otherwise they will die and the industry will lose its ability to supply flowers when the markets open up.

Kenya Flower Councils noted that, “Every hectare of rose plants costs $100,000 and each plant is expected to last five years. The total area of roses under cultivation is in the region of 2,000ha and this alone represents an investment of $200million.”

Despite the lack of sales, growers must still water, fertilise and look after the flowers, otherwise the plant deteriorates and will not deliver flowers in the future. Security must also be maintained to protect the farm infrastructure and people. Labour is still required to perform these tasks, so that once the pandemic passes, production and sales can return to expected levels. These ongoing operational costs exceed by a clear margin the revenue from reduced sales.

Kenya Flower Council’s Chief Executive Officer Mr. Clement Tulezi added that, “We care about the people we work with. The cut flowers sub-sector’s growth is hinged on the unique skills and dedication of our workers. We are determined to keep the skills after the crisis. We are committed to remaining a key player in creation of job opportunities for local people. Currently, we employ over 150,000 Kenyans directly and a further 500,000 from those who supply goods and services.”

“It is on the basis of the need to support our front line of defense and encourage them while also protecting over 4 million livelihoods that this campaign was born.” KEPSA’S CEO Carol Karuga added.

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