Flower exports are steadily rising ahead of Valentine day on Thursday with a major flower grower in the country, Finlays delivering 450 tonnes to the UK market this week, it has emerged.
The UK high commissioner in Nairobi Christian Turner said yesterday via his official twitter page: "UK company Finlays have this week delivered 13 million roses, 5 million other flowers (450 tons) in four full 747s (Boeing aircrafts) from Kenya to Britain."
Locally, vendors hope to sell one week's worth of flowers over the next three days as Valentines day spending catches on.
Kenya Flower Council is however concerned with the high cases of arbitrary levies and taxes being demanded by local authorities in various flower growing and selling towns, taking advantage of distributors' need for urgency in delivery ahead of Thursday.
"We already pay tax to the Horticulture Crop Development Authority but some councils workers are stopping trucks on the road to demand for money and you know right now the farmers will just pay it because they need to get the flowers to the market as fast as possible," said KFC chief executive Jane Ngige.
KFC said Valentines day alone accounts for 20 per cent of annual flower sales. Rough estimates indicate that last year about 120,000 tonnes of flowers were sold in local and foreign markets. She added that daily an average 300 tonnes are exported by Kenyan growers while on eve of Valentines an estimated 500 tonnes are exported.
According to chairman of Flower Vendors Association Elvis Wainaina, flowers sold in the country would normally be a volume of three tonnes in one week adding that they are likely to sell four tonnes over the next two days.
"The City Council has allowed us to put up temporary tents in town (Nairobi CBD) and some areas out of town on 12th, 13th and 14th," said Wainaina.
Valentines day is marked annually on February 14. It is a day set aside to celebrate love whereby most people exchange candy, flowers and other gifts as a way to show appreciation to their loved ones. It has become highly commercialised over the years.
Wainaina said flower tents will be placed along Koinange, Mama Ngina, Moi Avenue and Muindi Mbingu streets of Nairobi. Others will be located at the Sarit Centre and Jacaranda in Westlands, outside the Westgate mall, Nakumatt highridge and Nyayo stadium and at Kenyatta Avenue.
British Airways regional commercial manager George Mawadri could not immediately give exact figures of flower cargo it had exported recently as data was being compiled.