Members' Council member Richard Fernandes on his business and developments during the Covid-19 pandemic25 June 2020
The Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) interviewed Richard Fernandes about his company and developments during the Covid-19 pandemic. Richard is a member of the Members' Council of Royal FloraHolland and is CEO of Marginpar.
Marginpar has eight farms in Kenya and three in Ethiopia, together amounting to approximately 360 hectares of land. They also have licensees in Tanzania and Zimbabwe, so another 100 hectares can be added to this figure. Marginpar employs in the region of 4,000 people, 99% of whom work in Africa. Marginpar specialises in unique flowers; not just roses.
The covid-19 pandemic dried up the demand for flowers almost
overnight. That also hit the Kenyan floriculture industry hard.
Fernandes: "We had to take drastic measures during the first week
of the outbreak. Unfortunately we could not keep our seasonal
employees, so we did not renew expiring contracts".
"As the European economy began to relax, demand slowly increased again in the run-up to Mother's Day. We are confident that demand will continue to grow". "Our great limitation, however, is air freight," explains Fernandes. "Due to the lack of passenger planes, there is a huge demand for a limited number of cargo planes. An insane amount of money is being paid for those cargo flights".
Flowers of Hope
As chairman of the Kenya Flower Council, Marginpar has supported the Flowers of Hope project together with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance. They donated the flowers that they were unable to sell to hospitals and health workers in Kenya. Later came the idea to send some flowers to Europe. 'Flowers of Hope' were also sent to, among other places, the United Kingdom. Flowers of Hope wants to create awareness of the thousands of people who depend on the flower industry. "Actually, we're hoping that when the situation returns to normal, people will remember us and keep buying flowers."