There is little to smile about for freighters during this year’s Valentine’s Day following low volumes of flowers to be shipped due to damage caused by prolonged rains. Last year and as has been the case with other Valentine’s Day seasons, freight firms have been increasing the number of flights to Europe because of high supply from local flower firms and enhanced demand from customers abroad.
Ojepati Okesegere, chief executive officer of Fresh Producers Consortium of Kenya, says there is a shortage of the produce as a good percentage of flowers were destroyed on the farms.
“There was a lot of damaged because of rains that went longer than expected, wreaking havoc on farms,” said Mr Ojepati, noting that flower firms had to also grapple with diseases, which impacted negatively on production in the country.
Sanjeev Gadhia, chief executive officer of Astral Aviation, says they have not added extra flights to Europe this year because of low volumes.
The airline, which operates five flights a week in Europe and others across African countries, added eight flights to Europe last year.
However, this year the situation is different. “We have not added even a single flight this week because of low volumes this year to ferry to Europe,” said Mr Gadhia.
Kenyan flowers are among the best in the world and western countries, especially Europe, always make huge orders for the produce.
Freighters argue that there is need for Kenya to diversify its market beyond European nations, who have been the key buyers of the Kenyan flowers.
Cargo operators have, however, lauded the recent cargo deal between Nairobi and Washington, saying it will help in cutting down the number of days taken to export cargo from seven days currently to about one day.
He points out that direct flights will also allow them to bring in more goods after delivering their cargo in the US.
The amendment deal, which adds all-cargo rights to the existing air transport agreement, is expected to offer air carriers greater flexibility to meet customers’ cargo and express delivery needs more efficiently.
The new deal adds seventh-freedom traffic rights for all-cargo operations, meaning cheaper costs and efficiency in cargo movement.
The agreement was signed in Washington D.C by US Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh and Kenya’s Transport Secretary James Macharia.
Mr Macharia said the deal “will facilitate expansion of air freight services by allowing airlines from both countries to set up and operate air cargo hubs in either country”. Earnings from horticulture dropped by Sh9 billion in nine months to September pointing to reduced earnings in 2019.
Statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show that the earnings in the review period dropped from Sh115 billion in corresponding period last year, to Sh105 billion in September with only three months to the end of the year.
The cut-flower export remains the largest earner of horticulture, contributing over 70 percent of the total fresh produce in annual earnings.