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Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Armed escorts needed for Valentine’s roses

February 13, 2008

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— In a country strangled by anger and fear, it is taking armed escorts and emergency airlifts to make sure that Kenya's most warmhearted export - the rose - arrives in time for Valentine's Day.

Kenyan flowers - mostly roses - account for a quarter of Europe's cut flower imports, and Kenyan growers have been pushing to keep exports up for the holiday despite ethnic violence that has paralyzed the East African country.

They've chartered planes to embattled western cities, enlisted police to protect flower-truck convoys and made pleading cell phone calls to frightened workers urging them to return.

It seems to be working - European buyers say they haven't seen a shortage of Kenyan roses. But flower exports require predictability, and if unrest continues, Kenya's flower industry could quickly follow tourism as the next shattered pillar of the economy.

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