NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13- Kenya’s horticulture industry has started to see a slightly steady recovery after the coronavirus pandemic brought it to a halt.
This is according to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) which said the sector began growing in the past week, following the sinking of sales in key international markets which plunged below 35 percent in the past month.
Last month, KFC’s CEO Clement Tulezi said horticultural farms in the country were losing up to Sh250 million a day, as the pandemic shut down supply chains around the world.
Despite the ray of hope In the industry, the council warns that the available freight capacity cannot accommodate the rise in volume demand.
Tulezi said the sudden decline of demand for flowers in the international market and the fact that most exporters stopped shipping, forced most carriers to cancel fights early March.
“The decline in the passenger flights globally, including the national carrier has meant that demand for the freighters is huge. And the 1 million dollar charters are in high demand. The lure of Kenyan is not exciting anymore. Further, the lockdown in African countries has impacted on crew rest, making it impossible to operate the long sectors,” he said.
Tulezi pointed out that prior to the outbreak, the capacity available per week was approximately 5000 tons but as of today, the capacity is at 1300 tons for all commodities. These include flowers, fish, vegetables etc. Yet, the current demand for exports is 3500 tons per week.
Calls for help
Tulezi said that airlines have increased their rates tremendously, and are charging more than doubled the initial cost from Nairobi to most market destinations.
“Exporters are unable to meet these exorbitant prices. Yet, they have to service orders for the European Mother’s Day this week,” he said.
He said exporters now require urgent support to keep transport going and inject new life into the Kenya flower industry.
“We appeal to the government to expeditiously step in with short term support such subsidizing of jet fuel for Kenya Airways to lower costs for exporters. This will also create traffic that could ultimately attract more freighters into Nairobi.”
Flowers, along with tea and tourism, are the backbone of Kenya’s economy; the horticulture industry, which is Kenya’s third-largest foreign exchange earner, garnering around US$1.15 billion annually.
The coronavirus pandemic put more than 150,000 jobs on the line and impacted more than 4 million people who depend on the cut-flower industry indirectly.