Valentine day 2014, falls on many people favourite day for outing: Friday. This day is the second largest gift exchanging holiday of the year, behind Christmas. It is the traditional day throughout the world especially English-speaking countries, which lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine’s cards, presenting flowers, or offering confectionery.
Valentine’s Day is a big day for the flower industry. It is the day that colossal volume of flowers is exchanged. These bouquets come from a farmer probably somewhere in Africa and to be specific Kenya since it is the second largest exporter of flowers in the world after Colombia and the largest supplier of flowers to the European Union.
By buying flowers for your loved one, it might seem like a small gesture of love, but it is actually changing someone’s life as so many are involved in flower production. From investors, agronomists, input providers, farm workers to the vendors and others in the chain of supply; the flower is giving livelihood.
Most of filler flowers are grown by smallholders, many of whom are women. This high-value crop provides a valuable source of income for farmers to buy important foods, beyond what they grow on their farms, and to pay for household priorities like school fees and medicine.
In Kenya more than 55,000 workers (sixty percent women) are employed directly by the cut flower industry and another 2 million people indirectly. In the past there have been complains in regard to the workers’ rights, but intervention from Fair Trade and other certifications have led to better wages and more benefits for the workers. Most of the flower workers now belong to the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU), which is lobbying for collective bargaining agreements. All these and many more have led to higher wages for workers.
In the local market, every major town in Kenya and in shopping malls and complexes as well as roadsides of affluent estates there are many flower vendors who benefit from the business. According to Anne Wanjiku who runs Gitothua Flower Shop situated in Muthaiga Mini Market for Redlands Roses to support a charity baby day care, the local flower market is rapidly growing. “As long as one has fresh and high quality flowers, there is a market. Throughout the year we sell a lot of flowers and on valentines, because of high demand for flowers I get an extra person to help me, as we sell more than 20,000 stems”, Anne added.
In the Nairobi City Market flower vendors are very optimistic of higher sales for a valentine that is falling on Friday. Mr. Peter Mbogo, one of the vendors told Hortfresh Journal that although flower availability is challenging as most farms export virtually everything, business is usually very good. “Farms increase prices from Ksh. 100 per bunch to Ksh. 300; in turn we sell the bunch from Ksh. 600-Ksh 1000 and people don’t mind they buy enormously, call it love”, Mbogo said.
Samuel Muriithi a flower vendor at the same market noted, “January has been bad and business a bit slow. The hot weather is also scorching flowers, but with February 14 approaching, we anticipate turnaround of events”. His colleague, Joyce Njeri said that even if business is not doing good as they expect, still they are able to get their daily bread and meet ever raising commuter expenses to travel daily to and from work.
By buying flowers, besides showing your special Valentine that you care, the flower bouquet will do more; it will support livelihoods of others.