The Star (Nairobi)

30 January 2013

Kenya: Fear Grips Flower Firms Ahead of the Elections

Five weeks to the general elections, anxiety and fear has gripped flower farmers and their workers in Naivasha. Some of the employees have already applied for early leave while others are seeking a refund from their Sacco earnings.

During the 2007-2008, the sector was one of the hardest hit with thousands of workers displaced, others killed, injured or blocked from accessing their working place.

The Kenya Flower Council and one of the leading farmers have confirmed the workers concerns and called for peaceful elections. According to Jack Kneppers from Maridadi flowers some of his workers who were victims of the PEV are living in fear.

"Some of our workers have already applied for their annual leave while others are demanding the Sacco earnings ahead of the coming elections," he said.

"Many of those seeking to leave the town come from Western part of Kenya and some bore the blunt of the violence in 2007," he said. Speaking on phone, Kneppers said that production is currently high despite poor prices in the European market.

"We are doing well in production but the prices in Europe have dropped significantly due to the cold weather," he said. The Kenya Flower Council chief executive Jane Ngige said the coming election poses a major concern to flower farmers.

She said that farmers were apprehensive that chaos could break out and worried that this could affect the production and sale of the flowers.

"There is anxiety among flower farmers over the coming general election and we are hoping that it will be peaceful as any chaos could bring down the sector," she said.

Ngige said that while the government has not released the 2012 production figures they do not expect a major increase compared to 2011.

"The Eurozone financial crisis has continued to affect us and we do not expect any big changes in our annual production figures," she said. Flower earnings in 2011 rose to Sh44.51 billion from 121,891 tonnes that were exported then to various destinations largely Europe.

In 2010, the industry missed its target of earning Sh40 billion by netting Sh30 billion due to volcanic ash cloud and severe winter that affected flight schedules and a lot of stock went to waste at storage rooms in airports. The post election violence in 2007/2008 resulted in a reduction of 24 per cent in volume of flower exports over that period.

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