Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday defended his decision to take 300 bouquets of flowers to London, the United Kingdom aimed at protecting the economy.
“Those flowers that we have sent, Coronavuirus pandemic will end, those flowers employ workers, thousands of Kenyans and they say people are remembered in bad times,” Kenyatta said in a televised address to mark Labour Day.
“If we have sent them there and they see these (flowers come from Kenya) when the markets reopen, when someone goes to buy flowers the first thing they will think is to buy flowers from the one who remembered me.”
“We must protect our economy. We must look into the future, we must look at what we are going to do when we survive.”
He was responding to critics who had said the Kenyan government had ignored them and gave focus on other nations.
"Think before you start talking nonsense, we must protect our economy, this is not the time to be petty!"
— NTV Kenya (@ntvkenya) May 1, 2020
Currently, tourism and horticulture, leading sources of foreign exchange and major employers, have been hit hard due to coronavirus outbreak disrupting supply chains and local production.
“Kenya is a leading exporter of flowers to Europe, including the UK, with a market share of about 35% but the Covid-19 crisis has deeply hit the market, jeopardizing horticulture, a huge foreign exchange earner. Despite all this, we are hopeful, for better days ahead,” said Kenya’s High Commissioner to UK Manoah Esipisu.
3. Kenyan flowers are a prominent feature on the shelves of major supermarkets in the UK, which remain open, ensuring a lifeline for 200,000 workers responsible for growing some 5 billion stems of flowers a year mainly for export. pic.twitter.com/ZR1DzSeEI3
— Manoah Esipisu MBS (@MEsipisu) April 30, 2020
Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), through its member, Kenya Flower Council, and other flower growers flagged off over 300 bouquets, which were received by Flamingo Limited, UK, and distributed to doctors and nurses on the frontline of combating COVID-19, recovering patients, and care homes.
Flowers of Hope – Kenya is an initiative of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), of which the Kenya Flower Council is a member, that creates the essential link between the private sector and the Kenya Government.
KEPSA’s Chief Executive Officer Carol Karuga said that “It is part of our campaign dubbed ‘Flowers of Hope’ informed by the realities brought forth by how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting world economies.”
According to KFC, Kenya grows and exports annually over 180,000 tonnes of flowers to international markets, mainly the UK and Europe. This is equivalent to just over 5 billion stems of flowers.
“In the UK, where Kenyan flowers feature prominently on the shelves of all the major supermarkets, the stores have remained open and our flowers continue to bring hope and brighten the lives and homes of customers in these uncertain times,” Kenya Flower Council said in a statement Thursday.
Kenya-UK Strategic Partnership goes from strength to strength: thank you @StateHouse @MEsipisu for the beautiful flowers to cheers up UK frontline workers in the COVID-19 response. @NHS @KEPSA_KENYA @britchamken pic.twitter.com/Ez3yId6DoD
— Jane Marriott (@JaneMarriottFCO) April 30, 2020
The industry directly employs close to 200,000 people, of whom half are women, and impacts the livelihoods of families and many others employed in the formal and informal business sectors.
In 2019, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said the volume of horticultural exports increased by 1.8 per cent from 322.6 thousand tonnes in 2018 to 328.3 thousand tonnes in 2019.
“This was supported by growths in the output of exported fruits (8.3 percent) and cut flowers (7.8 per cent) in 2019.”
However, the volume of vegetables exported declined by 15.2 percent during the same period owing to unfavourable weather conditions that characterized the first half of 2019, resulting to lower production.