Kenya’s mangoes to the Middle East is facing steep competition from the Egyptian produce because of the low cost of shipping from Cairo to Dubai and Qatar when compared with high cost that Kenyan exporters have to incur.
Egypt’s proximity to middle-eastern countries, where Kenya is at the moment exporting the bulk of its mangoes, enjoys low cost of exporting the commodity with a kilo going at Sh32 by ship when compared with a Kenyan exporter who has to part with Sh108 for the same quantity.
Egypt has the advantage of the sea, which makes the cost cheaper, when compared with Kenya which has to export by air for the fruits to arrive when they are still fresh.
“Cost of shipping is quite expensive and, for the middle- east by air, we are paying one dollar per kilo, unlike Egypt who are spending $30 cents on exports through sea and this makes our produce costly,” said Japheth Mbandi, technical manager KEITs exporters, a local exporting firm.
Exports of mangoes from Kenya to Mombasa by sea take at least eight days to arrive, making it difficult to ship through the Port of Mombasa because of the long duration. Almost 90 percent of the Kenyan fruits are exported by air, making them expensive in the middle-east.
Mr Mbandi said the cost of shipping to Europe would even be higher by air and it can range from $1 to $2 a kilo, but the prices can be lower, if the mangoes can be exported by sea with a kilogramme exported to go at Sh80.
However, he said to achieve the European market by sea, Kenya has to change to varieties that have longer shelf life compared to what most farmers are planting at the moment.
“To do European market by sea, we have to change our varieties to Keit and Kent, which can withstand long days as we can do Europe for 28 days and middle- east for 10 days but the ,shelf life for apple mango, which is commonly grown by farmers in Kenya is short at between 10 to 14 days. A variety like Kent can go for up to 35 days,” he said.
Kenya is set to resume European market for mangoes in September. Emergence of the fruit fly in Kenya led to numerous consignments by the EU authority between 2010 and 2014. As a result, Kenya imposed a temporary self-export ban to protect the market and institute acceptable pest management measures.
Stakeholders argue that European market would come as a major boost to them, given that the earnings from Europe are 20 per cent more than what they get from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other middle-east countries.
The country is among the top exporters of fresh produce to the world market with the Europe taking the largest share of the total export.
The major exports from Kenya includes flowers, where the country supplies over 60 percent of the roses to the European market.