The perishable industry stakeholders are hoping that the Kenyan government would look at more supportive policies to encourage the industry as a whole. The maiden edition of ‘Perishable Logistics Africa’ held in Nairobi concluded with the hope of transforming Africa’s logistics infrastructure landscape to support African perishable exporters, Renjini Liza Varghese reports.

Africa has been exporting perishables, especially fruits and vegetables to the world market in large quantities. With increasing agricultural produce, the continent aspires to explore more global destinations. Currently, the major volumes of agricultural products from African continent are exported to Europe. The decline in domestic agricultural produce in Europe favours more imports from Africa.

Over the past few years the agricultural products and processed horticultural products exports from Kenya rose considerably. In 2016, Kenya’s earnings from horticulture exports jumped 12 percent to Sh101.51 billion crossing the Sh100billion mark for the first time.

“We transfer over 210 tonnes of perishables per week. Nairobi is slowly becoming the hub for transporting perishables, this is very exciting” said Sanjeev Gadhia, founder and chief executive officer, Astral Aviation.

Themed ‘Creating Africa’s future logistics grid for perishables’, the first edition of Perishable Logistics Africa 2017 held on November 23, 2017 in Nairobi, deliberated on the challenges and solutions to enhance Africa’s perishable trade.

“We need to focus on infrastructure to make the industry better. Industry has become a victim of its own success. It is crucial that we find a binding thread to bring in collaboration. We need to focus on sustainability to create an enabling environment for better cohesion amongst the service providers,” said Jane Ngige, CEO, Kenya Horticulture Council.

Peter Musola, cargo commercial manager, Kenya Airways, highlighted the need of government interventions and support. He said, “Creation and negotiations of policies is critical for the trade. The industry’s growth will also depend on how governments drive the policy.”

The pressing issues of lack of infrastructure especially that of road connectivity, storage facility, and inadequate temperature-controlled transportation facilities are highlighted as the crucial issues that are seeking concentrated attention. It is estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food items are wasted globally in a year. The case is no different for African countries. The percentage of wastage is higher in Africa as well.

Dr. Isaac Macharia, general manager, Kenya Plant Inspectorate Services, said, “African countries are on different levels in matters logistics. And there is a need to harmonise the supply chain. And Kenya Plant Inspectorate will continue to create an environment to assist the industry meet the market requirements.”

“Better logistics will come with better understanding of what is to be done.We have set up Kenyan standards driven by the need for a national compliance mechanism,” pointed out Gladys Maina, technical director, DYSA Consulting.

However, David Onyango, senior operations manager, Flamingo Horticulture, defined good logistics as having better quality equipment, warehousing, clubbed with seamless processes. He added, “Better logistics will come about with some government support. As a private sector we need to have a collective understanding of our needs locally before we go international.”

Joseph Kinga Muiruri, consultant, Agricounty Consult, was quick to add the importance of maintaining temperatures. He said, “The temperature should be maintained as per the set standards to avoid losses. Information needs to be harmonised amongst the players to facilitate awareness in the industry.”

“There is need for evaluation procedures for everyone in the value chain. This and taking responsibility amongst us will help us all enjoy the profits at the end of the day,” commented Lucy Njeri, MD, Saipei Foods.

Though the participants raised their concern over the laborious process of documentation, the panelists emphasised on the importance of documentation while shipping the product.

“We need to avoid the cumbersome processes locally through export documentation processes. Let us work together with the public sectors to reach our desired potentials. We need to have an open discussion on air cargo high rates to end the disconnect between the shipper and the carriers,” said Conrad Archer, MD, Panalpina Africa.

Ngige was quick to add, “Imposing standards in this market is not as difficult as getting rid of the paper work.”

The seamless flow of information will enhance the efficiency in the value chain pointed out Wouter Boekee, global industry manager for perishables, Lufthansa Cargo. He said, “For an airline, our customers, shippers and growers are our main source of information.”

“The information is there. Our dialogue should focus on what to do with what we have. We need to collaborate to a level of trust in the supply chain for us to grow in the industry,” said Nick Mwaura, direct sourcing manager, International Procurement and Logistics.

“If we in the supply chain keep working in silence then it ceases to exist. We need to stop talking about the supply chain and talk about the supply community. And sharing information from the source to the end is key in this business,” commentedBartPouwels, director business development, SchipholCargo.

“A future of more flights access and more competitive players will add value to the supply chain,” signed off Gadhia.

However, technology will be the driver in the near future pointed out Mwaura. “Block chain systems and technology is the future of this industry,” addedOnyango.

An improved logistics chain is what the growers are aiming for and with better support from the stakeholders of the value chain to scale the business further.

Organised by Logistics Update Africa, the event was sponsored by Saudia Cargo, Holland Flower Alliance, Kenya Airways Cargo, Africa Flight Services, Astral Aviation, Network Aviation Group, Liege Airport, FlowerWatch.

The conference was also supported by industry association such as Kenya Horticulture Council (KHC), Cool Chain Association (CCA), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association (EHPEA), The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), Union Fleurs – the international flower trade association, Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) and WCA Perishables.

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