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Kenya flower farmers Valentine wilted by blizzard, recession

NAIVASHA, Feb 12 – Kenya\’s flower sector, one of the country\’s largest export earners, on Friday bemoaned a sharp drop in demand for Valentine\’s Day it blamed on bad weather and Europe\’s economic downturn.

Two days before the biggest date on the world horticultural industry\’s calendar, Kenyan flower farmers complained that demand and prices had slumped by 20 percent compared to the previous year.

"This Valentine will be low, just like last year, as many consumers will be indoors due to the cold weather in Europe," and people will not venture out to buy flowers, said George Onyango, an official at Van Den Berg flower farm in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha.

"Some consumers are still suffering from the economic recession and see flowers as a luxury," said Onyango, whose farm produces 16 million stem roses a month.

Drought in Kenya and depressed European markets have hit the industry badly, with export earnings dropping sharply from 520 million dollars in 2008 to 420 million dollars last year.

According to Jane Ngige, chief executive of the Kenya Flower Council, the exports dropped from 93,000 tonnes to 87,000 tonnes over the same period.

She also attributed the bad performance to cold weather in Europe and added that climate change and water scarcity restrained production in 2009.

Around a third of Europe\’s fresh cut flowers come from Kenya and horticulture is the country\’s third foreign currency earner after tourism and tea.

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