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Grounding flights wilts flower sales

by biasharadigest
NJIRAINI MUCHIRA

By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
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Lack of freight capacity is the latest challenge facing the flower industry in Kenya as it struggles to recover from losses of over $83 million in March due to lockdowns in its main market of Europe.

The industry is slowly shaking off the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have started to see a slight steady recovery in the international market. Demand is beginning to grow, a sign that the flower industry could get back on track. This improvement now poses a new challenge. The available freight capacity cannot accommodate the rise in volume demand,” Clement Tulezi, Kenya Flower Council chief executive said.

He added that prior to the outbreak, the capacity available per week was approximately 5,000 tonnes but currently the available capacity stands at 1,300 tonnes for all commodities including flowers, fish, vegetables among others yet the current demand for flower exports is 3,500 tonnes per week.

The reduced freight capacity has been occasioned by a decline in passenger flights globally, including the grounding of national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ).

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The problem has been exacerbated by airlines having increased their rates, charging more than double from Nairobi to most market destinations.

Ironically, despite KQ being grounded, the Kenyan government has granted Africa’s biggest carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, licence to operate passenger planes grounded by Covid-19 for cargo from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi to Europe and Asia.

KQ has protested the move, contending that Ethiopian will take a huge chunk of the business of shipping flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, a preserve of the national carrier.

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