- Kenya Airways plane carried fresh chilies (16 tonnes) produced from the region to the United Kingdom.
- Passenger capacity at airport from the current 500,000 to about 1 million in time for the Africities Summit.
The Kisumu International Airport has recorded the first export cargo flight which carried fresh produce from the lake region after 13 years since it was upgraded.
Kenya Airways plane carried fresh chilies (16 tonnes) produced from the region to the United Kingdom.
This comes as Kenya airways said they are ready to lift 45 tonnes of fresh produce from the airport with challenges now on farmers.
Kakamega governor and Lake Region Economic Bloc chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, and Kisumu governor Anyang Nyong’o presided over a historic event on Saturday evening.
Oparanya urged counties within the lake region to allocate more funds for agricultural activities to support farmers in producing goods for export.
The counties, he said, should also employ more extension officers for expert advice to farmers. Oparanya further called on farmers to diversify from cane farming to horticultural crops for export.
“We are urging our people to stop over-dependence on sugarcane farming. They should also focus on other crops for export for income generation,” he said.
Nyong’o said the first cargo was brought into reality through a public-private partnership comprising Kisumu Lakefront Development Corporation, Kenya Airports Authority, Kenya Airways, Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya and other key stakeholders.
He said the new developments will energise boundless opportunities of horticultural, fisheries and meat products from the region by opening up new markets for farmers.
Nyong’o said the upgrade of the airport to include freight services and cold rooms is long overdue, and the heightened conversation from the stakeholders will go a long way in influencing policymakers and implementers.
“There is a need to rethink agricultural policies from subsistence farming and establish a roadmap towards long-term agricultural production,” he said.
Nyong’o said the cargo facility will not only spur investments and industrialisation but will catalyze job creation leading to sustainable livelihoods and reduced poverty in the region.
This comes even as the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure Housing, Urban Development and Public Works commits Sh1.2 billion for the upgrade of the passenger capacity of the airport from the current 500,000 to about 1 million in time for the Africities Summit.
The establishment of a Cargo village at the airport will unite cargo airlines, freight forwarders, farmers, fish traders and airports to identify opportunities to generate new business and add additional frequencies into the market.
Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) managing director Alex Gitari said the new venture will serve as a major boost to the air cargo industry by increasing cargo traffic in the region and opening up business opportunities for investors and other stakeholders between Kenya and the rest of the world.
“Being cognizant of the fact that Air cargo is an integral component of the aviation industry, Kenya Airports Authority came up with the Air Cargo Strategy 2019-2022 whose goal is to improve its cargo handling capacity,” he said.
He said they will continue to embrace public-private partnerships in the development of the projects.
The approach, Gitari said, has enabled KAA to embark on expansions and construction of air cargo facilities such as Transit sheds, Cold stores, specialized freight consolidation centers, warehousing for e-commerce and fumigation facilities for quality assurance of our agro perishables exports.
“The situation of fish production and consumption illustrates the lack of a coherent policy. Our fisheries and agricultural policy need to be more suitable to a global, technology-driven world,” he said.
Gitari said they should be laser-focused and provide support to agricultural products which have export markets and value-added potential.
“Our fish, chilies, mango, pineapple, peanuts, avocado, traditional green vegetables and organic beef could give us the best global competitive advantage because of our unique regional position.
“We are thrilled to see this collaboration and partnership that we have diligently pursued for months open opportunity for this region and the East Africa Community.
Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya Chief executive officer Okisegere Ojepat said the horticulture Industry is committed to opening up more export opportunities for farmers and creating access into regional and global markets.
“With airport now open for Fresh Produce exports we as the industry do purpose to grow exports by between 12 to 20 percent annually,” Ojepat said.
He challenged the Lake Region Economic Bloc to embrace the opportunity that will create millions of job opportunities for the youth and will tremendously improve the living standards of the people.
The air cargo carrier has provided exporters from Kisumu and the lake region with reliable and rapid connectivity to consumer markets across their rich global network.
Fresh produce items such as avocados, fish, chilies, mangoes, pineapple, peanuts, bananas and traditional green vegetables will be the main commodities transported on Kenya Airways.
Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka said the role KQ plays in the initiative is important as they are supporting trade efficiency by connecting the fresh produce industry from this region to the rest of the world.
“With the initial capacity to transport 6 tonnes daily and 42 tonnes per week, KQ has demonstrated that we have the capacity to support trade as required,” he said.
Kilavuka said with access to air cargo transportation and export of fresh produce will open up the region to more investment and trade opportunities.
Kisumu Lakefront Development Corporation Limited chairman Edward Ouko said reviving cargo and export is an integral element in their five-year Project Plan.
He said the second phase of it (plan) being, the establishment of a fish processing zone.
“This cargo launch is an important milestone; setting the foundation in the establishment of Kisumu as the next economic frontier for East Africa and the Lake Victoria Blue Economy,” Ouko said.
The role, he said, is to coordinate the establishment of the cargo village and export desk which will be located at the airport and run by the KAA Cargo Division.
“This will serve as a one-stop shop housing different stakeholders within the export customer journey. A lot of work needs to be done, but we have laid the foundation for a brighter future for agriculture in Kisumu County and in the Lake Region Economic Bloc,” Ouko said.
He said the cold storage facility in Kisumu is expected to benefit farmers regionally with a focus on exports and supporting the local agricultural sector.
Ouko said they are committed to cementing their long-term partnership with all the stakeholders involved and look to enhance the initiative through growth and sustainability.
He noted that the infrastructure development at key gateways such as Kisumu international Airport provides a great platform for economic development.
In 2012, retired President Mwai Kibaki while officially opening the airport challenged the locals to make full use of the facility.
“What should be ringing in your mind is how the airport will be of use to you people,” Kibaki said repeatedly.