In Kenya, about 30,000 casual workers working in flower farms have been axed while over 40,000 permanent staff have been asked to go home with their fate unknown. Industry players warn that should the virus ripple effects continue unrelenting, the national head count could drop to 20,000 in the next few weeks.
“Only 50 percent of our nationwide workforce is currently working with the percentage expected to plummet to 25 percent in the coming two to three weeks,” said Kenya Flower Council chief executive Officer Clement Tulezi said.
“If things do not improve then we project employee head counts to drop to 20,000.”
Cancellation of oversea orders and travel restrictions on Europe which is now the epicenter of the virus has hit the flower industry hard with an estimated 40 percent plunge in sales forcing companies to turn on their 150,000 workforce to save their companies from outright losses.
Europe remains the biggest destination for Kenyan flowers due to its relative geographic proximity and good transport links. Nearly two-thirds of Kenya’s exports are destined for Holland, where they are resold to florists through auctions which present a safe avenue into the market for less seasoned growers.
More than 500,000 people in the country depend on the trade according to the Kenya Flower Council, with roughly half of the country's 127 flower farms concentrated around Lake Naivasha, around 90 kilometres northwest of Nairobi.
On Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the treasury is preparing undisclosed tax relief to traders and homes under a fresh bailout for coronavirus-hit businesses.
"What we are dealing with primarily is a health crisis. But unfortunately, this is a health crisis that is bound to have financial and economic impact," said Mr Kenyatta.
"We are also looking at other areas where from a fiscal point of view, we want to see what we can also do to support our people during this difficult time. In due course, we shall brief you."