Relief for flower sector as airline flies out produce

Monday, April 27th, 2020 00:00 |
A KLM Boeing 777-300 passenger aircraft such as this, with ample belly capacity, started operating last week. Photo/Courtesy

Kenya’s horticulture industry got a relief with an increase in cargo flights taking cut flowers and other perishable products to the Netherlands.

Coming shortly after Kenya Airways repurposed passenger planes to carry cargo, the surge could help struggling airlines, trying to remain afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The KLM Boeing 777-300 passenger aircraft, with ample belly capacity started operating last week together with existing full freighter flights Air France KLM Martinair which continue to operate regularly.

Netherlands accounts for the largest export market for Kenyan products in Europe and the leading destination for Kenya’s cut flowers, vegetables and fruits.

The move eases pressure on Kenya’s distressed horticultural sector experiencing dwindling earnings as effects of the Covid -19 pandemic continue to bite.

This could also cushion flower farms which started destroying flowers worth millions daily because produce could not reach the European Union market which has been the main export destination.

Flower exports are among the country’s top three foreign exchange earners generating in excess of Sh104 billion annually.

Kenya Export Floriculture, Horticulture and Allied Workers Union (KEFHAU) Secretary general David Omulama says over 15 farms had laid off workers despite government’s promise to support the sector.

Trade statistics from 2014 to 2018 indicate that the Netherlands has consistently been ranked as the leading country in Europe when it comes to purchasing Kenyan exports. During the same period, Kenya’s exports to the Netherlands amounted to Sh216.4 billion against imports from the Netherlands totalling Sh94.7 billion, signifying Sh121.7 billion trade balance heavily skewed in favour of Kenya.

Food security

The Netherlands has, through its development cooperation programme in the country, partnered with Kenya to improve food security and integrated water management. Kenyan flower farms have been sending home workers due to lockdowns caused by the coronavirus in the country’s main markets in Europe.

Clement Tulezi, chief executive of the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), told the media recently that most of the permanent staff have been sent home on leave while those that have remained are being paid to harvest and destroy flowers.

“We have been hit very hard, unlike other industries… say manufacturing that we can wait to see impacts in a week or a month. Ours is immediate,” he said.

More on Economy and Policy