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Shipping & Logistics

Flower firms in talks for freight consolidation to reduce costs

A worker in a flower farm
A worker in a flower farm. Flower farms are in talks with freight companies on consolidation of flower shipments to major markets as demand drops due to restrictions brought about by the spread of the Covid-19. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Flower farms are in talks with freight companies on consolidation of flower shipments to major markets as demand drops due to restrictions brought about by the spread of the Covid-19.

According to Kenya Flower Council (KFC) Chief Executive Officer Clement Tulezi, haulage harmonisation will in the long run create value for money as transportation of small volumes may prove costly.

“If we can consolidate the small exports that we currently make then it makes it viable for freighters to pick flowers even as they look at the northward bound flights,” he said.

Mr Tulezi said the discussions are at an advanced level and that they expected a breakthrough in the coming days or weeks.

The call comes as the sector stares at over 40 percent drop in sales as major flower markets enforce border control measures on both their airspaces and boundaries to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.

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Some of the highly affected markets include the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America, among others.

“As a result, our flowers have been destroyed in countries such as the Netherlands and that are some of the losses that we do not want to incur. Thus, we will either stop shipments altogether or operate at bare minimum,” Mr Tulezi said.

Moreover, he said, flowers are being destroyed at farm levels to manage crop cycles instead of processing. He added that their main concern is when the Kenyan government imposes a total lockdown.

“This is a worry for us. If that happens and the freighter are not able to come in and pick the little that we have then we will be in complete trouble,” he said.

However, he noted that the government has assured them that it won’t be taking such measures in the near future. “We have been told that the freighters will still come in and be able to pick the little flowers that we still ship out,” he added.

“We have been told there is no 14-days quarantine on any cabin crew though for cargo and a few passenger flights the protocols and hygiene will still be observed. There will be isolations and designated a number of hotels around the airport where this will happen [if need be],” he added.

He added that the government has also assured them that their trucks will still remain on the roads despite the lockdown.

As a pre-cautionary measure, he said, flower farms have enhanced worker safeties and hygiene to minimise the spread of the virus at farm levels.

“At farm levels, we ferry our workers using buses that are more hygienic. Moreover, at farms, we have also stepped up hygiene protocols,” he added.

He added that with the growing cancellation of inbound passenger flights, there is going to be limited space to ferry flowers. “Additionally, freighters may not be able to sell all their freight space and will look for other destinations and will look for their destinations to pick up cargo,” he said.

Last month, the council said flower farms had shed a fifth of their casual workforce that consists of more than 150,000 employees. It warned of more sackings if things do not improve in the coming few weeks as companies will struggle financially. “Only 50 percent of our nationwide workforce is currently working with the percentage expected to plummet to 25 percent in the coming two to three weeks,” Mr Tulezi earlier told the Business Daily.

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