NAIROBI, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) — With only a few hours left to Valentine’s Day, delivery men in Kenya’s capital moved briskly, delivering flowers amongst other sentimental gifts to their respective recipients.
Major busy streets have witnessed an outpouring of hawkers displaying both low-priced and costly Valentine’s gifts.
The price of the merchandise ranges from 20 shillings (0.18 U.S. dollars) for candy to the more expensive gift assortment going for 22.83 dollars.
“In the last two days of operations, I have noted buyers are gravitating towards the less expensive items. Single roses and other miniature gifts are moving quite fast. I reckon the effects of the economy have something to do with this,” Miriam Mdugu, a flower vendor told Xinhua on Saturday.
Valentine’s Day which falls on Feb. 14 has largely been associated with lovers although some societies have expanded its significance to celebrate platonic friendships as well as family ties.
While not all countries in the world celebrate the day, in Kenya, it offers an apt opportunity for businesses to reap a fortune.
“We have been counting days leading up to Valentine’s Day because we are assured of record-breaking sales. Last year the flower business was paralyzed if not dead, nobody was buying flowers, everyone was trying to satisfy their basic needs,” said David Mureithi, a florist.
Mureithi runs his flower business in an expansive market famed for circulating flowers within Nairobi’s central business district (CBD) and its environs.
At the time of the interview, Mureithi together with his assistance was hard at work curating packages for their clients and dispatching incoming orders.
“Securing orders from flower farms has been a daunting task; they are all decrying increased taxes and passing that down to us. While for some, the challenge of meeting demands looms large as they are yet to attain normal operating capacity,” said Mureithi.
Official data put Kenya as Africa’s top exporter of freshly cut flowers to the European market, the nation ranks fourth in the world with the Netherlands leading the pack.
Subsequently, the lucrative trade has provided direct and indirect employment to thousands of local citizens.
Nevertheless, during the peak months of the pandemic, some flower-rich farms in the greater Rift Valley region, were faced with the unenviable decision of disposing of healthy flowers due to a lack of market.
Also, several farms reduced their employees, choosing to operate with a skeleton staff to save on cost.
With the industry slowly rebounding, some farms are yet to return to full operation.
Despite the present challenges, Mureithi is optimistic that business will pick up more so because flowers remain a global favorite during Valentine’s Day.
In line with the lover’s themed day, some restaurants, mobile shops, banks, and beauty shops are offering discounted prices and a variety of enticing deals to prospective customers.
“Chocolates, teddy bears, customized cards, and expensive meals are appealing but red roses remain King. Every woman loves roses,” Mureithi said.
Tim Owetta and his friend Steven Kaluki haggled with a sales lady not very far from Mureithi’s stall. They are both in their late twenties and like their peers eager to experience all the adventure life has to offer- including picking gifts for their female companions.
“To my relief, my girlfriend communicated her desires for the day. It is less stressful this way,” said Owetta.
Kaluki on the other hand said that Valentine’s Day is the only one he spends sentimentally without feeling remorseful.
Conversely, Mathew Toet, a nurse in his late fifty lost sense of the day’s significance citing his advanced age.
“For my wife and me, our expression of love is not limited to a single day. We do it every day in the simplest ways. Valentine’s day is not a big deal to us,” said Toet.
Toet instead is amplifying the government’s call, urging Kenyans to turn up and replenish the country’s empty blood banks.
“Maybe instead of buying each other flowers we can accompany each other to the nearest donation booth and show our love for each other,” said Toet.
Kenya’s Ministry of Health this week launched a nationwide blood donation drive to take place during the valentine’s period. The move comes against a backdrop of a shortage of the vital fluid in major health facilities. Enditem