Airfreight costs have doubled ahead of Valentine's season, in what could deny the horticulture sector the windfall that comes with the yearly celebrations.
The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) said on Monday that insufficient airfreight capacity, high costs and costlier fertiliser are also weighing down the outlook for the sector.
KFC chief executive Clement Tulezi who spoke ahead of Valentine’s Day, celebrated every year on February 14, said the limited capacity and higher freight rates mean more expensive Kenyan flowers when they eventually get to key markets compared to rivals.
“Per-kilogram freight costs have more than doubled to $5.5, and this does not place us in a competitive position compared to Ethiopia with an average of $1.8 per kilogramme,” Mr Tulezi said.
Kenya generated Sh110 billion in sales in 2021 up from Sh107 billion in 2020, and suffers a shortage of cargo capacity of about 2,000 tonnes, according to KFC. The country exported 210,000 tonnes of flowers in 2021 up from 173,000 tonnes in 2020.
Mr Tulezi said local flower exporters lose about 20 percent of their produce daily because they cannot be shipped to international markets due to airfreight space constraints.
Covid-linked disruption also affected this year’s planting seasons, hampering production, added Mr Tulezi.
“We need more cargo space,” Mr Tulezi said adding the lobby has formally asked the State to allow licensing direct access to international markets from Nairobi by foreign airlines to lower costs per kilo of cut flowers and ornamentals.
It's also seeking consideration by the government to license more foreign passenger flights temporarily until Mother's Day in May to inject more cargo capacity.