Love is in the air, so is Covid and freight space challenges

Love is in the air, so is Covid and freight space challenges

Valentine occasion is here and flower growers are busy working around the clock to increase their volumes, at least to recoup sales lost in 2020.

Peter Tulezi, CEO Kenya Flower Council while speaking to the media admitted that flower growers are gearing for bumper volumes though reduced airfreight capacity poses a challenge. “Kenya’s flower producers are receiving good orders for valentine, at the moment the retail market is doing well as supermarkets are open, we are cautiously optimistic for a better valentine though freight capacity is our biggest worry. Freight demand usually doubles to around 5,500 tons in the week before Valentine’s Day, requiring an additional weekly shipping capacity of 3,000 tons,” he said.

According to the CEO, the Kenyan Government has allowed the Ethiopian Airlines to deploy additional planes on the Nairobi – Europe route to ease capacity constraints but still a lot needs to be done to ensure more volumetric space is available.

During Valentine period every year, Kenya usually records high demand for flowers and lack of sufficient capacity in terms of freights compels the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to give ad-hoc permits to other freighters to help in boosting the capacity.

Speaking to Bernard Muthuri of Sosian Farm, he narrates that the industry is anticipating fairly good prices during this occasion as the demand for flowers in Europe is greatly increasing. “We usually begin shipping our flowers to Europe from 28th of January. As a farm, the demand has been good and we have strived to achieve good harvests. We have come from a very tough situation last year of the Covid pandemic which had extremely low orders and sometimes no orders at all. When we get good orders at least we are happy that we may get some revenue in the end, “he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Ethan Chege of Nirp East Africa who added that though they are relatively good orders and good prices in the European Market. The weather in Europe might conspire slightly to dampen the hopes of the Kenyan growers. “Some parts of Europe are experiencing winter weather and this always leads to most people staying indoors. Offloading of cargo from the planes is usually slow as most airlines resort to sending most of their workers on leave, and other airlines decide to slow down most of their activities as there is less movements of people and cargo as well. It is also good to note that, since Covid struck there has been reduced European airlines in Kenyan market due to Covid-19 restriction” he said

“The move to grant Ethiopian Airlines permit to assist in shipping consignment from Kenya will benefit local growers as there will be sufficient capacity that will create competitive prices for volumetric freight charges,” said Gilbert Kibe Director General KCAA.

Over the years, volumetric charges at JKIA have always risen sharply amid outcry of horticultural growers. This has always pointed to limited capacity to ferry produce to European countries. Last year, Freight charges at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) came down by almost half due to increased capacity of airlines amid declining demand for cargo, giving exporters a huge boost.
Some Kenya growers have diversified to Middle East market to reduce dependency on Europe thus benefiting the grower and the exchequer.

For Kenya flower vendors, there is little glee for the valentine occasion. According to Eric Wainaina, a flower vendor in Westlands, the day falls on a Sunday and ganging from the previous years when the occasion has fallen on a Sunday, there are minimal sales. This is attributed to most people being at home while others usually travel upcountry. “Most offices will be closed and we won’t experience love birds buying flowers and delivering to workplaces of their loved ones. But we are optimistic we will have something at the end of the day,” Wainaina said.

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