Floriculture Association outlines demands to weather Covid-19 storm

Ms Esther Nekambi, the executive director of Uganda Flower Exporter Association. PHOTO | PAUL ADUDE Flower exports drop. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, the floriculture sector has reached a near total collapse, seeing a drop of 90 per cent in the industry’s exports and 50 per cent drop-in price rate.

Floriculture, Uganda’s third leading export, has largely been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. Ms Esther Nekambi, the executive director of Uganda Flower Exporter Association (UFEA), in an interview with Prosper Magazine speaks on how to sustain the industry during this pandemic. Below are the excerpts:-

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the flower exports/horticulture industry?
During the first three weeks of the pandemic, farms had 70 to 100 per cent cancelled orders. This has reduced to between 20 and 30 per cent.

During the first weeks of the pandemic, deliveries were impossible. There was zero income, while fixed costs remained. Many crucial decisions and expansion plans were put on hold.

What plans does the flower industry have to live through and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic?
The way of doing business will change permanently. Building resilience is critical for the future. We have to find different ways to engage with our customers, for example, accelerating digital sales.

The sector has refocused its efforts on recovery, resilience and results-oriented interventions. We are adapting business processes by restructuring operations. We are also optimising cash management and identifying efficiency gains while ensuring production and export chains continue operating sustainably. Our activities are being re-oriented for business continuity.

What measures are required to revive the flower industry beyond Covid-19?
In order to improve access to credit and funding for firms, the government should direct the Bank of Uganda (BoU) and commercial banks to process Agriculture Credit Facility (ACF) loans within two weeks to support working capital.

About 50 per cent of the ACF non-performing loans (0.8 per cent) equivalent to Shs1.4 billion should be availed to commercial banks to encourage ACF uptake.

The government, through the Auditor General, should conduct a post audit of the transactions since banks are well-regulated. We also want money to invest in cold chains, silos and production.
Government should allocate a post-Covid-19 marketing budget of $0.5m (Shs1.8b) for the export crops to regain market share. This fund should be channeled through the Uganda Export Promotion Board.Due to the perishability of goods, the floriculture industry is required to keep plants […]

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