Flowers rot in farms amid KQ, Ethiopia freight wars

Flowers rot in farms amid KQ, Ethiopia freight wars

Flower farmers are being forced to throw away a quarter of their produce due to a drop in airline traffic in the wake of restrictions imposed on rival carriers to protect Kenya Airways.

Kenya Flower Council (KFC), the lobby for large-scale flower farms, says they need freight capacity of at least 5,000 tonnes a week against the 3,500 tonnes available.

The government has been reluctant to allow Ethiopian Airlines, for instance, to increase its capacity from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

“On average our members are dumping flowers equivalent to 25 percent of their produce because of the limited cargo capacity,” said Clement Tulezi, chief executive of the Kenya Flower Council.

“It’s unfortunate that this is happening when we have increased orders from our major markets in Europe and elsewhere.”

Europe accounts for nearly 70 percent of Kenya’s cut flower exports and the limited cargo capacity and high freight costs are making it difficult for Kenya to serve this market, threatening thousands of jobs.

The exporters say the coronavirus pandemic led to grounding of most carriers that used to offer extra capacity on the Nairobi route while on a return trip after offloading cargo in Egypt and South Africa.

The pandemic has also seen airlines target vaccine cargo, which offers higher returns than conventional freight such as flowers.

Kenya Airways has compounded the problem by resisting a plan to increase frequency for other airlines on the Nairobi route, having successfully lobbied the government to protect its turf at the expense of flower farmers.

Kenya has said it will not approve additional freighters from Ethiopia Airlines after Addis refused to allow KQ to fly cargo directly to Europe from Bole International Airport, forcing the national carrier to route through Nairobi.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said KQ has committed to increasing capacity and the government will approve any other carrier apart from Ethiopian Airlines to increase frequency from Nairobi to Europe.“We met with the flower lobby and KQ and agreed that the national carrier will commit to increase capacity which they have confirmed in writing,” Mr Macharia said yesterday in a phone interview with the Business Daily.Mr Macharia said he has also asked the exporters to recommend other carriers to boost freight capacity from Nairobi and not Ethiopia Airlines.“The only interest they are pushing is Ethiopian Airlines which we refused because they denied KQ flying from Addis to Europe, forcing us to fly back to Nairobi,” he said.The Cabinet Secretary […]

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