June 27, 2020: Starting July 7, Luxembourg-based cargo airline Cargolux will restore its services to Nairobi and Johannesburg using its B747-8. The flights will operate weekly twice.
The move brings in a sigh of relief for the horticulture sector, which suffered massive losses due to a lack of access to its key markets after the pandemic shut down global travel. Nairobi has witnessed a capacity reduction from 5,000 tonnes to 1,300 tonnes in the initial period of lockdown, which increased to 2,800 tonnes by mid-May.
In the beginning of April, Kenya’s national airline not operating flights for carrying essentials has been deliberated during a webinar on April 9 by Logistics Update Africa on 'Delivering cargo in the times of continental contagion: From essential supplies to critical medicines'. Hosea Machuki, CEO, Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) noted, “We have demand to ship fruits and vegetables out of Nairobi to Europe but the only issue is air freight capacity. Our members are in talks with the government to add more capacity. We are looking at an option in Kenya for passenger aircraft to fly cargo like Ethiopian is doing. We are in talks with Kenya Airways for capacity addition.”
In the same webinar, commenting on supply and demand mismatch and higher freight rates, Astral Aviation CEO Sanjeev Gadhia stated that they have been flying 2 B747Fs three flights a week from Nairobi into Liege hub and would like to optimise 747s by carrying 100-110 tonnes of vegetables with other cargoes so that the capacity utilisation is done.
Post this webinar, Kenya Airways (KQ) took off its first cargo flight to Johannesburg (medical supplies and essential goods) and followed by another flight to London (40 tonnes of fresh produce) and continued to support the industry by flying to several other destinations. KQ Cargo has operated scheduled flights from June 8 – 14 using its B787, B73W, and B73F from Mombasa-Dar es Salaam- Zanzibar - Nairobi; another flight from Nairobi - Mauritius, London, Amsterdam, Guangzhou, Accra, Johannesburg, and India.
The capacity crunch for horticulture sector in Nairobi was deliberated during a webinar by Logistics Update Africa on 'How Last-Mile delivery services can keep up with Covid-19 demand for critical medical and food shipments' on April 17, where Jacob Bwana, commercial manager - cargo at Kenya Airports Authority pointed out the reliance on Nairobi for cargo to the landlocked neighbouring countries and European countries.
At the end of April, the Netherlands strengthened its partnership with Kenya by flying Air France KLM Martinair Cargo twice weekly cargo flights bringing 45-50 tonnes of cargo from Nairobi to Amsterdam. The exports dominates cut flowers and other perishable products, inclusive of vegetables and fruits from Kenya to the Netherlands. The deal signifies a clear boost for the country's agricultural and horticulture sector and the Kenyan economy at large as it will enable more exports.
The Netherlands has long been at the forefront of investing in Kenya and promoting increased exports from Nairobi to Amsterdam and beyond. The European nation has for the last five years in a row been ranked as the largest European market for Kenyan exports. It is also the largest export market for Kenyan products in Europe and the leading destination for Kenya's cut flowers, vegetables and fruits.