Why this Valentine's Day was not a bed of roses for Kisumu residents

Emmanuel Otieno

Emmanuel Otieno, a street vendor in Kisumu, displays his Valentine's Day wares on February 14, 2024. 

Photo credit: Rushdie Oudia | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The situation has been worsened by the exorbitant prices of flowers and hamper gifts on sale.
  • Yet, some were willing to go all out to express their love to their spouses on this Valentine's Day.

There is this impression that natives of Kisumu city like projecting about themselves. Pesa otas! Money is never a problem, perhaps how to spend it.

But on this year’s Valentine’s Day, money appeared to be a major factor. 

The hard economic times that the average Kenyan is currently experiencing are certainly being felt in Kisumu too.

This, it appears, is what dampened the spirit of an occasion that is meant to be a day of spreading the love. 

The situation has been worsened by the exorbitant prices of flowers and hamper gifts on sale by vendors out to make a killing.

Uncharacteristically, some residents of Kisumu opted for cheaper alternatives to profess their affection, while others ignored the occasion altogether.

Some, like Evans Awuonda, had great plans for the day which almost got ruined by nothing of their own making.

The boda boda rider, woke up early hoping to surprise his wife with a bunch of rose flowers.

He was at  Kisumu City square by 8am where flower vendors are usually stationed. 

However, he was shocked to discover that a flower which he bought at Sh30 last year, was now going for Sh50.

“I was surprised that the price had increased by that much. But since I wanted to surprise my wife, I had to dig deep into my pocket and buy the flowers,” he said.

Ms Leah Ochieng, a vendor in the city, attributed the increased prices to a shortage of flowers.

“We have been told that there are only a few flowers left on the farms, so we have to scramble for the few that have come. And since we are buying them at almost double the price, we have no choice but to review our prices upwards," she said.

Emmanuel Otieno, who is also a vendor along Oginga Odinga Street, decried the slow pace of business on a day he was expecting to make a killing.

Some of his gift packs comprising a small teddy bear, sweets and a red rose used to go for Sh150, but now he has to sell each at between Sh250 and Sh300 to make some profit.

As such, some residents walked away empty-handed while others sought florists outside town hoping to find a better deal.

“I made advance orders for bigger roses which were to be placed in a bunch. Now I am being told to take some flowers that appear to have been harvested prematurely, which I can’t. I have to wait to be given what I ordered or seek an alternative. Maybe a cake for my wife,” said Mr Kizito Omollo.


A bouquet of red roses on sale at Pien Flower shop in City Market, Nairobi in this picture taken on February 8, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

For Brian Oruko, the CEO of Direct Errands and Logistics Services, pricing and the high cost of living are largely to blame for the subdued Valentine’s Day.

Mr Oruko said a bunch of flowers that used to go for Sh200 or Sh300 from suppliers, now cost Sh500 or Sh600, more than double the price. He gets his from Elburgon or Nairobi.

“We have a rose flower now selling between Sh150 and Sh200, yet it used to cost Sh50. This effect trickles down to the retailers and us who have to factor in other costs to ensure the flowers are delivered to our clients,” he said.

He added that some clients who would take bigger bouquets this time opted for small bunches.

“I do not understand what is happening because the red roses have gone out of supply. I am not sure whether it is being hoarded somewhere by some unscrupulous businessmen or simply because they were not farmed enough to cater for the growing demand of this day,” said Mr Oruko.

Yet, some were willing to go all out to express their love to their spouses on this Valentine's Day. They paid for the overpriced flowers and went on to surprise their loved ones.

Meanwhile, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o’s wife, Dorothy led residents in celebrating Valentine’s Day at Huduma Center.

During the event, members of the public received flowers and gift packs. They were also served refreshments on an occasion that also included tree-planting at Impala Park Sanctuary.

“The youth should not just focus on sexual love. Do not engage in early sex since there is a risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Let us protect our young people,” said Mrs Nyong’o.

She also condemned the rising cases of femicide in the country, while asking the authorities to prioritise the safety and security of young women.