Shipping & Logistics

Flower exporters seek more space on KQ flight to US

Kenya exports flowers
Kenya exports flowers to over 60 destinations globally. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya flower exporters are seeking more cargo capacity in the Kenya Airways’ #ticker:KQ direct flight to the US to enable them export enough produce to meet increasing demand.

According to the Kenya Flower Council CEO Clement Tulezi, the airline management allocated five tonnes of cargo capacity to exporters of agricultural products which include horticulture and apparels among others, during the airline’s direct flight route launch to the US last year October. Of this, only two tonnes is allocated for flowers.

“The two tonnes capacity for the flower exporters is just a drop in the ocean as compared to the current market demand of more than 10 tonnes. If what we are delivering in New York is a small quantity, it will not be able to create the necessary hype around the Kenyan flower brand,” said Tulezi.

In a move to promote the sector, about two months ago, the council sent a delegation to the international World Floral Expo held in Texas to market the country’s floriculture sector.

After the Dallas Market Hall expo, the team also visited different florists and retailers and the take-away was that the demand is there, but they don’t have the volumes.


It is for this reason that exporters are calling on the Kenya Airways and its international partners to consider allocating them a fully dedicated cargo flight instead of a passenger flight which limits the cargo capacity.

According to Susan Kuria, Marketing Director at Flawless Flowers International, connecting flights require a minimum of three loading and off-loading stages, compromising quality, quantity and timely delivery of the produce.

“These are highly perishable goods that require minimal handling and a direct dedicated flight would help as it first allows shipping of larger quantities, reliable as it guarantees prompt delivery of good quality products as promised to the clients,” said Ms Kuria.

The Kenya Flower Council said it is engaging the Trade PS Dr. Chris Kiptoo who promised to bring onboard his Transport counterpart Esther Koimett, to discuss the matter before engaging the Kenya Airways.

“Kenya’s flower industry is in good shape but if we continue depending on the passenger flights, the capacity exported will always be limited,” said Tulezi.

He said, under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) trade agreement with the US, the country has over 6,500 tariff lines that allow duty-free exports to New York covering products such as fresh produce, leather among others, meaning the market demand is present.

Currently, KQ’s is the only direct flight to the US from Kenya and its cargo space is always fully booked leaving exporters to use connecting flights which have high risks and adversely affect the quality of the produce upon arrival to the designated markets.

“The US market has a lot of potential but the market rates have become too expensive due to flight costs. For instance, due to the small cargo capacity, space is currently booked up to September living no more space for those interested in shipping their produce,” said Ms Kuria.

Due to limited cargo space, Flawless Flowers International has dropped most of its American clients to an extent of forgoing an urgent order of one tone of the special kind of roses called Fireworks, Summerdance, and Fireflash.

With a spacious and reliable system, the company can deliver up to 500kgs per week.

Today, Kenya exports flowers to over 60 destinations with more diverse opportunities available in the US, Japan, India, China, Canada, Australia, and Eastern Europe, according to the Horticultural Crops Directorate statistics.

In the 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Economic Survey, export earnings from cut flowers grew by 37.7 percent from Sh82.2 billion in 2017 to Sh113.2 billion in 2018, to form the main drivers of the 9.6 percent increase in the performance of the horticulture sector.

During the recently concluded International Floriculture Trade Expo (IFTEX) in Nairobi which brought together growers, the market, breeders and the entire supply chain from Africa, the Kenyan flower industry displayed cutting-edge technology aimed at further boosting its growth and marketing.

- African Laughter