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Flower exporters switch to ocean shipping as air freight charges soar

The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) has embarked on an ambitious process of shipping flowers by sea amid rising air freight charges.

Under the scheme, the council aims to ship more than 50% of its products over the next eight years, calling the venture ambitious but possible.

Currently, the floriculture industry is facing logistical challenges due to increasing transportation costs and the unavailability of cargo planes.

According to KFC Managing Director Clement Tulezi, they had embarked on training farmers on the new venture which would address the issue of capacity and charges.

He said they were currently making 150 containers every week under the pilot project, adding that ocean freight was the way to go.

“We expect that we will transport 50% of cut flowers by sea freight over the next eight years and we are working with Kenya Railways on this,” he said.

Tulezi added that under the program, they would help reduce carbon emissions by more than 80% and control pests that could not survive 28 days in a refrigerated container.

“We have been blamed for being one of the top air pollutants, but a shift from air to sea will see carbon emissions from cargo planes carrying flowers reduced by 80%,” he said. .

Speaking in Naivasha, Tulezi noted that fertilizer prices and availability continued to be one of the major challenges currently facing the sector.

He called on the government to intervene so that it imports cheaper fertilizers from countries other than Russia and Ukraine which are currently at war.

Regarding production, he said that currently they are exporting 3,500 tons per week, adding that they expect this increase to 4,200 tons on Mother’s Day.

For its part, the Association of Agricultural Employers (AEA) has called for grants to support flower growers who have not yet fully recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the association’s CEO, Wesley Siele, farmers’ profit margins were shrinking month on month, affecting worker welfare.

He challenged the government to intervene on fertilizer prices and the lack of cargo theft and capacity in the floriculture sector.

“The cost of production has continued to increase day by day and we are calling for more government support as this sector employs thousands of people,” he said.