Flower prices have more than doubled during this year’s Valentine’s season due to a shortage of the commodity caused by heavy rains that destroyed the flowers late last year.
Firms dealing in flowers have registered a 60 percent drop in production this season following heavy rains in a season that was plagued by pests and diseases, which in turn hurt supplies. Valentine’s Day will be marked today across the world.
Rains ended late in January and growers said they required at least 14 weeks to grow new roses, derailing chances of the new flowers being ready for Valentine’s Day.
As a result, a bouquet of flowers that was selling at Sh700 last year is now retailing at Sh1,500 with buyers complaining of difficulties in getting the stems from farms.
“The industry is grappling with a 60 percent decline in production following heavy rains that impacted negatively on flowers last year,” said Mary Kinyua, the general manager at Oserian Flower farm.
The decline in production, which had not been anticipated, has seen flower firms revise their orders for overseas buyers due to difficulties in meeting demand.
Lilian Ikiriwaje, the director of Tigerlily Flower Corner, said her company had to cut the quantities of flowers they buy because of the higher prices.
At City Market in Nairobi, flower vendors have increased the cost of a stem from Sh20 to Sh50.
Ojepati Okesegere, the chief executive officer of Fresh Producers Consortium of Kenya, said there was limited supply of flowers not only for the local market but also for overseas customers. “This will be an expensive Valentine’s Day for Kenyans because of the shortage of flowers that has seen the prices shoot through the roof,” he said.
Kenya is already feeling the impact of declining production with a dip in earnings in the nine months to September 2019. Earnings from horticulture in that period dropped by Sh9 billion, pointing to reduced earnings in 2019.
Statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed that earnings in the review period had dropped from Sh115 billion in a corresponding period last year to Sh105 billion in September.
The cut-flower export remains the largest earner of horticulture, contributing over 70 percent of the total fresh produce in annual earnings.
The low volumes of flowers have also hit freighters who normally make a windfall around this time of the year when they get increased orders for flowers in Europe.
Last year, as been the case in past Valentine’s Day seasons, freight firms would increase the number of flights to Europe because of high supply from local flower firms and enhanced demand from customers abroad.
Sanjeev Gadhia, chief executive officer of Astral Aviation, said they have not added extra flights to Europe this year because of the low volumes. The airline, which operates five flights a week to Europe and others across African countries, added eight flights to Europe last year.
Kenyan flowers are among the best in the world and European countries place huge orders for the produce.