•Floriculture sector is second foreign earner after tea
•Naivasha has more than 60 flower farms
High air-freight charges since the outbreak of Covid-19 has now seen flower farmers opt to shipping their produce to cut on transportation costs.
According to the Kenya Flower Council (KFC), a pilot programme had been launched with plans to export more than 50 percent of their produce through the sea in the next eight years.
Since the pandemic, farmers have suffered major losses due to inadequate cargo-planes. Currently more than 1,000 tonnes can not get cargo-room weekly.
According to KFC CEO chief executive Clement Tulezi, they have embarked on training farmers on the alternative export channels saying this would address the issue of capacity and charges.
Tulezi said flower farmers that are exporting 3,500 tonnes per week adding that they expected this to rise to 4,200 tonnes during Mother’s Day.
He said they are currently exporting 150 containers weekly as part of the pilot project adding that sea freight was the way to go.
“We are projecting that we will be ferrying 50 percent of the cut-flower through sea-freight in the next eight years and we are working with Kenya Railways on this,” he said.
Tulezi said that under the programme, they would help reduce carbon emission by more than 80 percent and deal with pests that will not be able to survive for 28 days in a refrigerated container.
“We have been accused of being one of the leading air pollutants but a shift from air to sea will see carbon emissions from cargo planes ferrying flowers reduced by 80 percent,” he said.
Speaking in Naivasha, Tulezi said that fertiliser prices and its availability continues to be one of the main challenges currently facing the sector.
He urged the government to intervene and import affordable fertiliser from other countries away from key source markets Russia and Ukraine which are currently at war involved in war.
The Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) called for subsidies to support flower farmers saying they are yet to fully recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The association's CEO Wesley Siele said farmers’ profit margins has continued to shrink thus affecting workers welfare.
He said the government should intervene to help stabilise fertiliser prices and push for more cargo flight to boost capacity in the floriculture sector.
“The cost of production has continued to rise by the day and we are calling for more support from the government as this sector employs thousands,” he said.