Flowers firms have shed a fifth of their casual workforce and sent a similar number on compulsory leave as the industry battles to survive the aftershocks of the coronavirus lockdown.
Cancellation of oversea orders and travel restrictions on affected countries has hit the industry hard with an estimated 40 percent plunge in sales forcing players to turn on their 150,000 workforce to save their companies from outright losses.
About 30,000 casual workers have been axed while over 40,000 permanent staff have been asked to go home with industry players warning that head count could drop to 20,000 in the next few weeks.
“Only 50 percent of our nationwide workforce is currently working with the percentage expected to plummet to 25 percent in the coming two to three weeks,” said Kenya Flower Council chief executive Officer Clement Tulezi said.
“If things do not improve then we project employee head counts to drop to 20,000.”
The sharp decline in revenues has crippled an industry which was already on the back foot as flowers fetched low prices at auctions last year.
According to the regulator, the Agriculture and Food Authority, Kenya’s earnings from horticulture exports including flowers, fruits and vegetable, fell 7 percent in 2019 to Sh142.72 from Sh154.7 billion, mainly due to lower prices of flowers at the auction in the Netherlands.
“We have seen a drop in demand for flowers in Europe and the rest of the world,” Mr Tulezi said, adding that they have witnessed little disruption in markets such as United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Japan.
He said revenues were also affected by the extended rains late last year and early this year.