Flower farms face turbulence as more businesses close

A worker at Maridadi Flower Farm in Naivasha cuts roses for export. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The floriculture industry, one of the country’s main foreign exchange earners, is facing new threats and turbulence with the closure of a few farms.

Others are reducing their activities. Punitive taxes, high cost of agricultural inputs, double taxation, rising labor wages, stagnating prices and high transportation costs are some of the major challenges facing the sector.

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation – causing flower exports to stagnate. Some farmers have not yet recovered from the losses.

To reduce the losses, some operations reduced their activities while others resorted to outsourcing various services, which led to significant job losses.

According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the thorns not the roses in the hundreds of greenhouses stuck out like a sore thumb as farmers tried to weather the tough economic times.

According to the council’s chief executive, Clement Tulezi, the lack of government support has pushed farmers into a corner. He said the third source of foreign currency employs thousands of people directly and indirectly with little government support.

“We have seen sectors like tea, sugar and coffee get tax exemptions from the government, but in the floriculture sector we are being forgotten despite the billions of shillings we bring in every year,” he said. declared.

Some of the flowers that had closed according to Tulezi include Magana, Harvest, James Finlay, Karuturi while Oserian Farm had reduced operations.

An employee of Maridadi Flower Farm packs roses for export. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

“We have seen a trend of some farms closing or changing their nature of business due to lack of government support and crippling high taxes,” he said.

Tulezi, however, noted that the double taxation issue had been resolved after winning two lawsuits in Nakuru and Meru courts. “The only challenge we are currently facing is a decision by Nyandarua County which is still charging taxes from vegetable growers,” he said.

However, the Kenya Plantation and Agriculture Workers Union (KPAWU) has accused some farms of casualizing the workforce, which has seen more workers contracted out. According to the general secretary of KPAWU, Naivasha branch, Ferdinand Juma, the decision had caused fear and anxiety among the workers.

Juma said dozens of workers from other small farms lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic, with employers pointing to the high cost of production. “There is a crisis in flower farms and we are calling on the national government to address the issues raised by farmers to save thousands of jobs,” he said.

Dozens of small farm workers lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Juma said the plight of Karuturi workers remains unresolved six years after the farm which at one point produced more than a million stems of roses a day went into receivership.

“Some of the workers died waiting for their savings as the area hospital was closed and the fate of nearby schools hung in the balance,” he said.

According to Juma, the new trend was also aimed at preventing workers from being represented by the union.

Juma noted that seasonal workers were not entitled to the wage increase and other benefits granted to permanent employees.

“We have seen cases where investors employ workers on a seasonal basis, which means they cannot get the annual salary increase according to labor laws,” he said. Juma identified Oserian, Shalimar, Beautyline and Olij as some of the farms that had placed the majority of their workers under contract.

Terisa K. Carn