Flower exporters worry over freight ahead of high season

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Flower exporters worry over freight ahead of high season

Resumption of passenger flights from August 1, after being grounded on March 25, was largely seen as a boost to horticulture exporters. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Flower exporters are concerned over continued inadequate airfreight capacity ahead of onset of high season in September despite opening of Kenyan airspace to international passenger flights will hurt delivery of orders.

Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the lobby for large-scale flower farms, says Kenya is still struggling to meet demand in Europe in a low season, a situation exporters fear will worsen if the freight capacity is not expanded from next month.

Kenya’s floriculture industry enjoys a relatively long high-season which runs from September through May, peaking in February.

Resumption of passenger flights from August 1, after being grounded on March 25, was largely seen as a boost to horticulture exporters who airlift more than a third of their merchandise as belly cargo.

“We have seen passenger flights coming in, but they are carrying so little. Even Kenya Airways, the maximum they can do is 200 tonnes per week, and that’s a drop in the ocean,” KFC chief executive Clement Tulezi said on phone.

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“But there’s minimal improvement and it’s helping us a bit because the volumes are low. But in less than three weeks (September), we will be in high season again. We need to get to about 4000 tonnes per week.”

Airfreight capacity at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) had fallen to 1,500-1,800 a week during the four-month shutdown of the airspace – about half of the usual cargo volumes– with some airlines having converted passenger planes into cargo carriers.

Kenya is currently servicing about 70 percent of cut flower orders largely due to airfreight capacity challenges, he added. But this is a significant jump from 30 percent in April.

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