February 05, 2021: Kenyan flower sales for Valentine’s Day continue to be under threat with reduced airfreight capacity and lockdowns in key European markets.

According to Bloomberg, Kenya’s flower producers are receiving orders for February 14, but freight capacity is “our biggest worry,” Clement Tulezi, chief executive of the Kenya Flower Council, said. Freight demand typically doubles to 5,500 tonnes in the week before Valentine’s Day, requiring an additional weekly shipping capacity of 3,000 tonnes, he said.

Kenya exports about 70 percent of its flowers via Amsterdam, and restrictions in the Netherlands and other key export markets, such as the UK, are likely to hinder sales. Kenya has allowed Ethiopian Airlines to deploy additional freighters on the Nairobi-Amsterdam route to ease capacity constraints, stated Tulezi.

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Sales at Royal FloraHolland, which operates three international auctions in the Netherlands, look “quite positive” in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, with lower supply pushing up prices, said company spokesperson. Prices are about 16 percent higher than the same period last year, he said.

Astral Aviation has doubled its cargo flights to Europe for the next two weeks, and has added additional capacity for freighters that will operate during Valentine’s Day.

Meanwhile, the increase in capacity is expected to come as a boost to exporters who are assured of transporting their produce abroad following a decline in freighter capacity at the JKIA since the onset of Covid-19.

Kenya Airways in association with Avianor has repurposed its high capacity B787 Dreamliner for cargo use.

Also Read: Kenya Airways to soon fly B787 preighters to meet cargo demand

Ethiopian Airlines has been permitted to operate 24 ad-hoc flights between Nairobi and Europe without going back to its hub in Addis Ababa.

Speaking to Business Daily Africa, Tigist Terefe, Ethiopian’s country manager said these additional flights are coming in at the request of flower exporters to move their planned extra volume of produce targeting Valentine’s Day.

With the loss of European airline capacity in the Kenya market due to Covid-19 restriction, Terefe said these flights provide critical capacity for flowers in this period. Without these flights, she said the flowers would not be able to get to the market and it would be a big loss for the Kenyan growers and the country.

“The need to operate the flights follows the request of local growers and exporters and in view of insufficient capacity to uplift all the local produce for this seasonal operation,” Terefe added.

Ethiopian Airlines is deploying B777 during the Valentine and Mother’s Day period this year.

Also Read: Will the 2021 flower season flourish?

Normally Kenya records high demand for flowers during Valentine’s and the lack of sufficient capacity in terms of freighters compels the Kenya Civil Aviation to give ad-hoc permits to freighters to help in boosting the capacity. Kenya Airways did not object to the move, as it did last year. However other players have termed the ad-hoc flights unfair.

KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe said the move is meant to benefit local farmers as there will be sufficient capacity that will create competitive prices.

Last year, Kenya Airways protested the move by KCAA to issue ad-hoc permit to Ethiopian Airlines, saying that the move was meant to deny the ailing carrier an opportunity to make money from cargo transport.

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