Over 1,000 Kenyans set to become jobless after Multi-national flower firm, Finlays Kenya, moves to close down its two farms before end of the year

Europe remains the biggest destination for Kenyan flowers due to its relative geographic proximity and good transport links.
  • In a statement on Friday, Finlays General Manager Stephen Scott said the firm would stop operations at Chemirei and Tarakwet flower farms by December 25th.
  • In April 26, last year, Finlays sounded an alarm that it could hardly keep the two 70-acre farms operational, and planned to shut them by December 2020.
  • More than 500,000 people in the country depend on the trade according to the Kenya Flower Council.

In what is turning out to be a tough year, over 1,000 Kenyan employees are set to become jobless before the end of the year.

Multi-national flower firm, Finlays Kenya has announced that it will be closing down its two farms in Kericho County which currently employs hundreds of Kenyans as casual labourers among other tasks.

In a statement on Friday, Finlays General Manager Stephen Scott said the firm would stop operations at Chemirei and Tarakwet flower farms by December 25th, rendering all positions redundant.

“Due to an oversupply in the European Market and decreasing demand, the price of roses has remained very low,” said Scott.

 “We have also experienced a weakening exchange rate, extreme weather conditions and high labour costs.”

In April 26, last year, Finlays sounded an alarm that it could hardly keep the two 70-acre farms operational, and planned to shut them by December 2020.

Scott later wrote to workers informing them of a decision to move the date closer:

 “The final closure date will now be on December 25, after which operations on Chemirei and Tarakwet will stop."

The firm blamed a myriad of challenges, including the weakening of the shilling, extreme weather conditions and high labour costs for its woes.

Kenya Plantations and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) officials, however, said trouble started in 2014 when the union demanded implementation of the 2014-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which awarded workers a 30 per cent salary increment.

"As a union, we feel this is a ploy by the company to try and shortchange workers who were to get a 30 per cent salary increment that had stalled since 2014," said Dickson Sang, the union's Kericho branch chairman, Standard reported.

"Finlays want an easy way out of the increment deal."

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.

The EU is Kenya’s biggest market consuming 66% of the flowers. Apart from EU and Australia Kenya’s other key markets are Japan and China while efforts to enter Russia, Turkey, South Korea and India are ongoing.

Last year, the flower sector was among Kenya’s top three foreign exchange earners, generating $1 billion.

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