Flower companies have increased the number of staff on their payrolls in anticipation of high demand ahead of the peak season even as Valentine’s Day approaches.
A survey conducted from January 13 to 15 by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows employment has recovered and exceeded the pre-pandemic levels, averaging 113 percent in December 2020 and January 2021.
Hiring has increased from 87 percent recorded in November 2020, and 56 percent in April, after a plunge in demand of the fresh-cut flowers, which saw employees shown the door.
Growing employment rate indicates continued trend of recalling or hiring new workers buoyed by resumption of operations and gradual economic rebound.
The Markit Stanbic Bank Kenya’s Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) — a monthly measure of private sector activity — shows the rate of new employment in January has been fastest since October driven by rising demand for goods and services.
“In December and January, the respondent farms confirmed to have increased their employees in readiness for the peak season that runs from January to May,” CBK said.
“All flower firms have resumed since August, compared to only 56 percent in April and May, when the farms either closed or scaled down their operations due to reduced demand from export markets and constrained cargo space.” The sector remains optimistic that the average orders in the next four months to May average at 97 percent, at the pre-Covid-19 levels. This is despite the discovery of new variants of the virus and possibility of consequent lockdowns in key export markets, resulting in possible cancellation of orders.
In April, most flower firms laid off their workers or put others on unpaid leave, as major markets including Netherlands, United Kingdom, Australia and US enforced lockdown. The industry had reported an estimated 40 percent drop in sales.
However, following re-opening of economies a rise in cargo space on resumption of flights, exports have recovered to 95 percent from 53 percent in April.
Production levels were on average 90 percent as at January 2021. This was a rise from an average of 47 percent in April 2020.