The second edition of Flower Logistics Africa, held in Nairobi, concluded on a high note with industry stakeholders calling for a more integrated and collaborative approach to take flower logistics to new levels. The industry is enthusiastic about the new found markets beyond Europe. Adaptation of technology and knowledge sharing were propagated as key measures for simplifying processes, Renjini Liza Varghese reports.

Kenya continues to be the leading exporter of flowers from the African region. As per the official data, the country exports over 200,000 tonnes of flowers per annum to 60 international destinations. Though the growth rate is stagnant for last couple of years, the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) sees the segment currently growing at 2 percent, and expects to improve here onwards.

During the second edition of Flower Logistics Africa 2017, themed “Enhancing Africa’s flower power through better logistics,” the stakeholders deliberated on various subjects ranging from the steps to enhance trade; industry standardisation; challenges in packaging; and role of technology in cool chain management, transport and supply chain.

The event in Nairobi on the November 22nd attracted participation from Africa and outside. During the conference, the industry in single tone called for standardisation in flower logistic on high priority.
The speakers on the panels elaborated on how the members of the trade value chain should look at a collaborative approach that would be the way forward for the flower industry. Sharing information and data with each other is crucial in this process.

Liege Airport’s cargo sales manager, Eric Gysen highlighted that the Liege airport on an experimental basis started sharing data with the flower value chain operators.

“We are taking a risk by sharing information on an experimental basis for improving efficiency among stakeholders.Find and build relationships to earn each other’s trust then work on trust mechanisms that will better processes,” said WicoSantbutle, director, Cargo Development, KLM Cargo.

Jane Ngige, chief executive officer of Kenya Flower Council (KFC) emphasised the need for a single standard for the flower industry. “Now growers follow different standards that are set over the period, the supply chain industry follows a different code, airlines follow IATA standards. So what we are looking at is to create a uniform code and link it to the IATA standards as it is followed by every operator in the world,” she said.

Though KFC may be able to put together a single code for the flower trade industry, who will take the lead to implement the process remains a question.

For the Kenyan flower growers, Europe continues to be a key market; however the demand from the East (especially from China) has surged in the recent past which forces them to look beyond Europe now.

Key issues that need attention from the industry include - inadequacies in infrastructure, co-operation among members, high transportation cost and standardisation in packaging.
Packaging is crucial in ensuring the quality and freshness of flowers from the farm to the destination. The Kenyan market is flooded with different types of packaging boxes. As there is no standardisation, the supplier dictates the market. Standardised packaging will also bring in consistency.

“As a sector, we all need to speak the same language for consistency. As stakeholders, it is our responsibility to ensure standards are maintained,” said Eddy Verbeek, general manager, Florensis, a Netherlands based breeder and plant supplier.

Parit Shah, Director, Silpack Industries said, “We are raising standards by avoiding previous mistakes in all matters packaging. This is to provide consistency from suppliers to ensure delivery is of standard.”

Jeroen van der Hulst, director, FlowerWatch, added by saying, “Standards means investing more on coaching the workers at the farms and the processing process. We need to borrow from our partners by incorporating innovation in our processes.”

Technology adaptation is different at each level of the flower trade value chain. This is again pointing to the pressing need for a single integrated platform that makes the communication easier.
Peter Musola, cargo commercial manager at Kenya Airways, pointed out, “We would like to encourage our stakeholders to digitalise to ease and fasten the process.”

“Processes need to be simplified, and technology will help in this. Effective regulations are required to keep the industry in check. But those should not be laborious ones,” said Susan Akwesi, manager, Saudia Cargo.

It is also important to maintain appropriate temperature while transporting cargo across the continents.The shipper is the best judge to decide what temperature is to be maintained during cargo transportation, the size of the box etc. However, there exists a gap.

The participants concluded that the governmentshould take the lead as policy formation is crucial to the growth of the industry. At the same time the industry is of the opinion that the value chain associations fits the bill better. Going forward, the collaboration with the associations will play a significant role in bringing in changes and addressing the challenges of Kenya’s flower trade.

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

The conference was also supported by industry association such as Kenya Flower Council (KFC), 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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