Flower exports recover from seven-month low, post surplus

Thursday April 22 2021
fina01pix

A man packages flowers for export. Exports have recovered from a seven-month slump. PHOTO | FILE

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

Flower exports recovered from a massive decline, registering a Shs6.6bgrwoth in February, according to data from Bank of Uganda (BoU).

The industry had been threatened by a massive reduction in export volumes and revenues at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown last year but it has progressively recovered to near pre-pandemic levels.

Data from Bank of Uganda indicates that during February, flower exports earned Uganda $6.28m (Shs23.3b), which was almost double the $4.48m (Shs16.5b) earned in January.
Sales, according to the Central Bank, increased by 28 per cent or Shs6.6b, the highest month-on-month growth in more than seven years.

The industry last registered such massive growth in February 2014.
The flower industry, according to Bank of Uganda, first registered a recovery in June last year in which at least $6.04m (Shs22.3b) worth of flowers were exported.
However, it subsequently, registered declines in July up to January, earning a monthly average of $4.5m during the seven months.

The decline had been largely blamed on Covid-19, which had during the period forced a number of countries to go into lockdowns.
The decline had been worse in March last year, which according to data from Uganda Flowers Export Association, exports had fallen by at least 90 per cent.

The improvement has been attributed to a number of factors, among which include, increased cargo flights in and out of Uganda.

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During February, according to Bank of Uganda, more 790 tonnes of flowers were shipped out of the country compared to 511 tonnes in January.

The 2020 and 2021 global lockdowns had eaten into the flower exports that suffered suspension at various auction markets including in Netherlands, which is one of Uganda and eastern Africa’s biggest flower export destination.

Ms Esther Nekambi, the Uganda Flowers Export Association executive director, yesterday said she had not analysed the Central Bank’s report, noting the export and such other details would be discussed in the upcoming annual general meeting.

However, in an earlier interview, Ms Nekambi said the improvement in flights, especially cargo was a major driver in the recovery for an industry that employs more than 10,000 people, majority of who are women (80 per cent).

Alternative markets         

Aurum Roses, which is one of the biggest flower exporters, according to Ann Mbuthia, the company’s administrative manage, annually export 20 million stems of which 30 per cent are sold as Fairtrade.  
“Annually at least 50 per cent of our stems are exported under the Fairtrade arrangement for a premium price,” she says.              

Fairtrade is a global movement, which addresses the injustices of conventional trade by supporting smallholder farmers and workers to secure better terms of trade.                                                 However, the industry is still grapple with the high cost of energy, with an average electricity bills per farm standing at between Shs25m and Shs30m per month.         

According to Ms Nekambi, in order to survive in business, alternative sources of fuel such as diesel run the generators, which on average costs between Shs10m and Shs20m, are being explored.

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