Reprieve for Kenya flower firms

April 19, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19 – Following closure of major airports in Europe, flower and fresh produce exporters are seeking alternative routes to mitigate the loses being incurred.

The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) said on Tuesday that it had secured three flights all heading to the South of Spain where airports remain open.

FPEAK Chief Executive Officer Dr Stephen Mbithi said the exports would then be tracked from Spain to destined markets in the U.K and Netherlands.

“The alternative route is meant to cushion the industry from what has become a nightmare for the horticulture industry,” Dr Mbithi said.

According to Dr Mbithi, the horticulture industry had recorded losses of $3 million (Sh231.75 million) a day translating to a total loss of $12 million (Sh927 million) as of Sunday.

“This is a billion-dollar industry and it is safe to say we have really been affected by the lack of flights,” Dr Mbithi said.

On average, the industry exports close to 1,000 tones a day, which has been severely, hampered following flight restrictions in and out of major countries in Europe.

Horticulture is a major foreign exchange earner for the country and analysts say it has taken a toll on the local unit.

Joshua Anene of Commercial Bank of Africa Treasury department said the shilling fell to recent lows against the dollar as the economic effect of cessation of flights across Europe began to take its toll.

The shilling opened the day at $77.50 buying $77.60 selling closing at $77.55/65.

“Going forward we expect the local currency to remain vulnerable as the market awaits the news on the resumption of flights,” Mr Anene said.

The short-term measure is aimed at giving reprieve to hundreds of flower farms across the country that has experienced major losses.

A spot check by Capital Business at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) found freighters turning away potential exporters due to lack of storage capacity.

Henry Ndive Operations Manager at transport and logistics company Schenker said on normal days cold rooms stock flowers and fresh produce for five to six hours before loading them onto airplanes for export.

“When the shippers came by today they found that most of their produce were not going to last and were taking them away to reselect and throw away what they feel would not make it to Europe,” Mr Ndive said.


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