Feature: Flower prices surge in Kenya as Valentine's Day fever peaks

Wednesday, 2019-02-13 23:04:42
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A vendor preparing his flowers for sale, February 10, 2018. (Source: The Star, Kenya)
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As Valentine's Day fever peaks in Kenya, hundreds of the East African nation's citizens are making grand plans on how to spend the day on Thursday (February 14).

Some will have lunch or candle-lit dinners with their loved ones, others will buy gifts like watches or clothes while the more philanthropic will donate blood or visit the less fortunate to spread the cheer.

For the majority, however, they will buy flowers and give them to their loved ones or send them via courier to the office.

Those planning to buy flowers will, however, have to dig deeper into their pockets as prices of the produce in the local market rise following a prolonged fertilizer crisis that affected production.

Kenyans round this time would have to pay between US$3.5 – US$4.5 for an ordinary bouquet of roses, up from US$2.5 last year.

On the other hand, specialized bouquets, some accompanied with chocolate or a bottle of wine go from US$20 to US$250.

At City Market, the largest source of flowers for Nairobi residents, a bunch of roses on February 13 retailed at an average of US$3.5 ahead of Valentine's Day.

This is a jump of US$0.5 in price from the previous week as traders seek to cash in on Valentine's Day demand.

Joseph Muriuki, a trader said they have increased the price of flowers due to high demand. "We increased the price two days ago because farmers have also hiked their prices due to Valentine's Day demand. Demand for flowers is currently high both in the local and export market, so you cannot expect prices to be the same," he said.

However, even as he hiked prices, Muriuki and other traders at the market expect to sell more flowers on Thursday.

Demand for flowers in the local and international market has increased this year, pushing up prices, according to Jane Ngigi, chief executive officer of the Kenya Horticulture Council.

However, she noted that a shortage of fertilizer since September last year has affected production of flowers for months.

Over 1,000 tonnes of imported calcium nitrate fertilizers meant for flower farms are stuck at the port of Mombasa in Kenya following a strict clearance process by the government.

The government instituted tough clearance measures last year in an effort to weed out fake fertilizers from the market.

A special team comprising of officers from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, National Intelligence Service and Directorate of Criminal Investigations, among others, was constituted to undertake the scrutiny of fertilizer imports, leading to the crisis.

"So little imported fertilizer is getting into the market generally and this has affected production of not only flowers but also food crops. But we are hopeful the situation would improve," said Nelson Maina from Elgon Kenya, an agro-input supplier across East Africa.

Kenya's flower earnings in 2018 stood at US$1.1 billion, out of the US$1.5 billion the country earned from horticulture, according to data released on February 13 by the Kenya Flower Council.

With the rise in price of flowers, some Kenyan consumers are, however, making new plans to express love, other than sending pretty flowers.

Last year, computer seller Gilbert Wandera sent his wife a bunch of roses christened "99 mixed roses" that he bought at 75 dollars from a florist in the capital Nairobi.

"This time round I would not go for the roses because they now cost 95 dollars, though the seller has added a box of chocolate. But I believe this is too high. A candle-lit dinner will work for me and I would spend much less," he said.

Xinhua