News that Kenya Airways is set to commence direct flights to the US later this year has been warmly received by those in the horticultural industry.
They say direct flights will reduce the freight cost of cut-flowers by three times as well as the duration it takes to ferry the produce to the US hence help Kenya grow her market share from the current 1 percent.
While the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act afforded Kenya and other developing countries duty-free access of some goods into the US market, the cut flower sub-sector which is Kenya’s top forex earner has remained under exploited.
Kenya currently commands a 1% market share of the lucrative market. A number of reasons including lack of direct flights into the market have been a major challenge for Kenya. This gap has seen countries like Colombia and Ecuador hog the market.
Key issues have been that, the cost of freight and transport depends on several factors such as flight availability, internal regulations in the country of origin and the volume of flowers shipped.
This therefore means that Airfreight costs are a key factor limiting the success of cut flower exports into the US market.
For instance airfreight cost for cut flowers from Bogotá in Colombia to Miami is one dollar and 10 cents per kilo, while Kenya pays three times higher for a similar cargo.
While Kenya ranks as the first world exporter of roses to the European Union commanding a 38% market share, it is doing badly in the US market yet roses make up the majority of exports at 78%.
Kenya’s cut flowers are presently expensive in the US market owing to the long distances exporters have to cover before eventually venturing into the lucrative market going by per capita consumption during special days including valentines or mother’s day when many people in the US buy flowers.
This is set to drastically reduce once Kenya Airways commences direct flights to the US later this year.
In addition, the duration it takes to ferry cut flowers will reduce thus help Kenya secure more market for her horticultural produce in the US.