A staff member transfers containers with flowers at a flower farm in Naivasha, Kenya, Feb. 8, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yahui)
"We are hoping this year's Valentine's Day will be profitable for the flower vendors. There is a reason for optimism given that we have started receiving orders for red roses ahead of lovers' day," says Peris Njeri, a middle-aged florist in the city market in the bustling downtown sections of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
NAIROBI, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Peris Njeri, a middle-aged florist, cut a jolly demeanor as she neatly arranged succulent red roses at her stall in the city market in the bustling downtown sections of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Counting three decades in the flower business, Njeri has always looked forward to Valentine's day with palpable excitement, given the windfall it unleashes as red roses, which universally symbolize affection, sell like hot cakes.
The suave business lady said during a recent interview with Xinhua that she was anticipating brisk business during this year's Valentine's Day which falls on Feb. 14, informed by optimism Kenyans were projecting as post-pandemic economic rebound gathers steam.
"We are hoping this year's Valentine's Day will be profitable for the flower vendors. There is a reason for optimism given that we have started receiving orders for red roses ahead of lovers' day," Njeri said.
Defying the early morning freezing cold that enveloped downtown Nairobi, Njeri's mood lightened up as potential customers passed by her stall to survey the red roses on display, promising to return for a bouquet during Valentine's Day.
She revealed that flower sales went up during last year's Lovers' Day, as Kenya eased COVID-19 restrictions and economic activities gained momentum, heralding improved profit margins for small-scale traders including florists.
A vendor sorts flowers to be sold at a flower market in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 9, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Yahui)
Njeri acknowledged that Kenyans were still grappling with depleted savings, a high cost of living, and sluggish economic recovery but stressed that she was optimistic they will spare some cash to purchase flowers during Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day is highly revered in Kenya where lovers, old and young, spoil themselves with lavish gifts including flowers, dinners, attire, and exotic holidays.
Hundreds of florists who patronize the imposing City Market in Nairobi often make contingency plans to ensure that lovers are supplied with fresh and aromatic red roses.
Tom Daniel, a middle-aged flower vendor counting two decades at the city market, said that this year's Valentine's Day is poised to record improved sales for the red roses, based on in-person and online orders that clients have been making.
Daniel noted that the flower industry in Kenya proved resilient even at the height of pandemic disruptions in 2020 and early 2021, adding that domestic clients have powered the sub-sector revival.
"For the last two years, the business was not good, but now that it is calm, we expect to do good business this year. We are receiving orders, people are walking in and making inquiries. We hope there will be enough flowers during Valentine's Day," Daniel said.
He admitted that inflationary pressures could affect the sale of flowers during Valentine's Day but stressed that vendors were willing to negotiate reasonable price ceilings with local clients.
Normally, vendors who patronize Nairobi's bustling streets and open-air markets during Valentine's Day cap the retail price of a stem of rose at 100 shillings (about 80 U.S. cents) while a bouquet costs a maximum of 6 dollars.
Seasoned florists like Kimani Kariuki who has been operating at the City Market in the last decade said that he expected the sale of red roses to slightly improve during this year's Lovers' Day. Kariuki said that vendors had made concrete plans to ensure there was a steady supply of fresh red roses to clients in their homes, workstations, and entertainment joints.
He added that vendors often source the commodity from farms on the outskirts of Nairobi, stressing that aggressive marketing using digital platforms will be key to getting additional customers ahead of Lovers' Day.
On the outskirts of the resort town of Naivasha, located about 100 km northwest of Nairobi, the blooming red roses captivated passersby at the vast greenhouses of Maridadi Flower farm.
Jack Kneppers, the founder and managing director of Maridadi Flower Farm, said that he was confident that demand for red roses will spike during Valentine's Day at the local and overseas markets. He added that Kenya's floriculture industry has weathered myriad storms including the COVID-19 pandemic, global inflation, and the high cost of inputs to sustain resilience. ■