Market News

Slow fresh produce paper work costs airlines millions

Cargo handler at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport labels flowers for export in Nairobi. FILE photo | nmg
Cargo handler at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport labels flowers for export in Nairobi. FILE photo | nmg 

Cargo airlines are paying out millions of shillings to customers due to what they term as stringent Kenya Plant Inspectorate Service (Kephis) approvals delaying export of perishable goods.

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport-based airlines say they have been compelled to take responsibility for decline in quality of horticultural goods on delays, leading to compensation of owners for losses.

The carriers and other players told the 2017 flower logistics conference that too much paper work by the plants inspector is creating a bottleneck along the value chain.

“Regulatory approvals are proving to be a challenge to us because of too much paper work and requirement involved in the process of clearance,” said stakeholders.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ cargo manager Peter Musula said the airlines absorb the losses subject to the agreement a carrier has with the cargo owner.

“For us we take responsibility based on contractual obligation with our clients. Delays on approvals is a very expensive affair to the airlines,” said Mr Musula.

However, Kephis said there were no shortcuts over regulatory approvals and wants airlines and their clients to always plan to avoid delays.

“Documentation is a must. Cargo airlines cannot avoid this because we are required to inspect the consignment right from the farms to the airport,” said Kephis managing director Esther Kimani.

Ms Kimani said the airlines need phytosanitary (hygiene check) certificate before any of the agricultural produce is approved for export, hence the laborious documentation.

Kephis said on average it takes about two hours for a consignment to be inspected and approved.

She, however, said Kephis is investing in ICT to cut down on paperwork and increase efficiency in clearance.

Kenya has previously suffered huge losses on its produce in Europe after the continent banned some of it due to high levels of chemical residues in the food items.

Kenya is currently contributing over 35 per cent to the global flower trade and the market share continues to grow despite stiff competition from Ecuador, Ethiopia and Colombia.

Last year, the industry brought home Sh71 billion, making up 70 per cent of the total earnings from horticultural exports. The industry also accounts for 17 per cent of the country’s GDP.