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Flower export standoff requires middle ground

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Flower export standoff requires middle ground


Workers sorting flowers for export. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Farmers say they need to move at least 5,000 tonnes weekly while the capacity is capped at 3,500 tonnes and the high season is just picking up.
  • Flower is one of Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earners that generated about $1 billion in sales in 2019 and employs 150,000 workers.

Flower farmers are throwing away up to 25 percent of produce on cargo transportation hitch linked to a push to protect national carrier Kenya Airways. This is not rosy at all to the farmers and the economy, looking at the jobs and earnings at risk.

Farmers say they need to move at least 5,000 tonnes weekly while the capacity is capped at 3,500 tonnes and the high season is just picking up.

Flower is one of Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earners that generated about $1 billion in sales in 2019 and employs 150,000 workers.

Specifically, the government will not allow Ethiopian Airlines to increase the amount of cargo it flies out of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in a tit-for-tat situation where Kenya Airways (KQ) has been barred from flying cargo directly from Ethiopia’s Bole International Airport. KQ, therefore, has to return to Nairobi, increasing cost of doing business.

According to Transport minister James Macharia, Kenya is open to approving more carriers save for Ethiopian Airlines, making worse the frosty relations between them.

While protecting KQ makes sense, what with its perennial troubles, the government ought to start negotiations with Ethiopian Airlines, even if the additional capacity will be restricted to high peak seasons. It does not augur well for Kenya to be losing foreign exchange on trade disagreements while there could be a middle ground.

Clinging to their positions on the issue, the two sides are only escalating the conflict, hurting the two economies more….

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