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At the time of containment in most countries affected by coronavirus, there are few opportunities to offer flowers. And the ban on social events like weddings and funerals further contributed to the drop in demand. Horticulture is therefore hit hard, starting with the queen of flowers.
Rose exports from Kenya and Ethiopia to Europe have plummeted. An entire important economic sector is threatened both in Kenya and in Ethiopia, the first and second African producer of roses respectively. In 2018, horticulture brought in Kenya a billion 300 million euros, thus rising to the third step of the podium of the sectors providing foreign exchange after tea and tourism. For the past 20 years, Ethiopia has also started producing roses and this year has hoped to take first place on the continent in Kenya.
Roses exclusively intended for the northern market
In Europe, the first centralization takes place on the Amsterdam market in the Netherlands, where the flower market is located. Once in Holland, roses from Kenya and Ethiopia are put up for auction before being shipped to European dealers. In recent years, other major markets have turned to Ethiopia and Kenya: roses are flown daily from Addis Ababa to Russia and from Nairobi to the United States.
If trade at local level continues everywhere – at a very slow pace – for other perishable horticultural products, such as salads and certain other vegetables, restrictions on air traffic and the collapse of the European market mean that 70% of the roses produced in Kenya can no longer find buyers. Some large farms, however, continue their production, like this horticultural farm in the Lake Nakuru region in central Kenya; but the roses are cut there to be immediately thrown into an improvised landfill.
One euro coin
Another Kenyan farm, which sells 60% of its production in the Middle East, still receives a few orders, but it cannot find a plane to transport its roses. An entire sector is on the verge of collapse, according to the director of the Kenyan Flower Council, which oversees the sector. The country’s 170 horticultural farms are already sorely lacking in liquidity and are recording a cumulative loss of around 2.1 million euros every day. Already very poorly remunerated, several tens of thousands of people who work on these horticultural farms risk finding themselves soon without any income.
In Europe and in the other countries of the North, the rose of Kenya or that of Ethiopia is often sold for around 1 euro each at the supermarket, while the cost price of the cut flower at the exit of the plantation oscillates between 4 and 8 euro cents only.