The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has cut Kenya’s flower exports by 80 percent and the industry expects to resume cargo flights to China in three weeks, Kenya Flower Council said on Thursday.

Clement Tulezi, CEO of Kenya Flower Council (KFC), told journalists in Nairobi that currently, Kenya is only able to access Britain and Germany in the European continent, a region that accounts for over 70 percent of all exports revenues.

“Government advice in Europe to close public gatherings and to keep people’s movements as low as possible has severely restricted consumer demand. Consequently, all Kenyan farms have drastically reduced export volumes by 80 percent, with a sizeable number suspending exports altogether,” Tulezi said.

Flower exports are a major foreign exchange earner and in 2019 earned the east African nation approximately 104.4 billion shillings (one billion U.S. dollars) in 2019, according to the Agriculture and Food Authority.

He added that other markets still open for Kenyan produce include Japan and the Middle Eastern nations.

He revealed that following the control of the virus in China, some flower shops in the Asian nation which absorbs about five percent of all flower exports, have also reopened.

“We expect cargo flights between Kenya and China to resume in the next three weeks and this will provide a lifeline for the Kenyan floriculture industry,” said the trade lobby.

KFC revealed that the United States which was emerging as a significant flower market following the introduction of direct flights has also stopped imports of the perishable product.

Tulezi added that unless the key overseas flower markets return to normalcy in the next two months, exports for 2020 will be at least 50 percent lower as compared to the previous year.