Over 95% of the exported cut flowers are transported by air which makes securing air cargo space a priority. To cushion this, large exporters have been able to exercise some control over space through joint ventures with freight forwarders.

The freight forwarders inspect and document flower and temperature conditions, palletize packed flowers, store them in cold storage facilities at the airport, clear them through export customs, obtain phytosanitary certification, and load the cargo onto commercial or charter flights. Some forwarders also offer cooled transport for growers.

Kenya-to-Europe routes are served by about a dozen commercial airlines as well as charter companies using wide-body planes. Cargo handling agents deliver direct services to the airlines, and are responsible for all cargo-related service requirements between the time an aircraft arrives at a terminal gate and the time it departs on its next flight. Fast, efficient and accurate ground handling services are vital minimizing the turnaround time (the time during which the aircraft must remain parked at the gate). Some of the airlines transporting flowers include Cargolux, Emirates, Kenya Airways, KLM, Martinair, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar, and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Since flowers are highly perishable by nature, speed of delivery is of the utmost importance, as are appropriate temperature control measures during transit. For cargo handling companies it is important to invest in adequate infrastructure facilities, such as cold stores and pre-cooling facilities, testing and cargo handling and internal container depots suitable for floriculture products.The infrastructure at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is catching up with the increase in production of recent years. Due to hefty investments, the current capacity meets industry needs, even in peak periods like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

On the other hand, and owing to the fact that there are no direct flights, exports to the USA are still too expensive. We hope that the recent visit to the US by HE Uhuru Kenyatta would yield fruits since the issue was discussed at length with the US government. To also comply with the security standards, JKIA fourth Terminal has progressed well and is nearing completion.

The Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) requires freight forwarders to scan all packaging items rather than accepting a random sampling moving the delivery time forward and lengthens processing times. Moreover, KEPHIS introduced an Electronic Certification System easing the process. However it becomes a challenge when the system is not working causing delays and consignments going without proper documentation. This is currently causing interceptions in the EU especially or even results in delays/next flight.

High oil prices (fuel costs) increases air freight costs and this is transferred to the exporter.

During palletizing, the products are often put on 1 pallet. This means extra handling, as products move from A to B, to C and D (administration, transport transfers, re-loading, sometimes restacking). It also affects the cold chain, as it creates more sensitive transit moments. Some growers have organized forwarding themselves, putting into practice their strong need to stay in control.

When it comes to delivering an attractive flower product to the consumer, post-harvest handling is as important as growing. In this sense, the reliability of air connections is just as crucial as the cost. As well as creating additional cargo space, airports must continuously improve their infrastructure, including perishable goods handling facilities. Handling floriculture cargo calls for a high frequency of international flights and chartered flights.

The main handlers of Kenyan fresh grown cargo in the Netherlands are J. van der Put Fresh Cargo Handling, Flowerwings Cargo and Flowerport Logistics. They handle the import process (customs and phytosanitary requirements), cold storage and delivery at the customer’s doorstep. Optionally, additional logistical services are available, such as vacuum cooling, repackaging, splitting or order picking.

According to past surveys, it has been observed that some Handling agents focus on cost management, rather than on quality management.Some forwarders / handling agents are also not geared to reacting to delays or handling late afternoon, night or weekend deliveries. Arrivals during the work day often receive better treatment. Price is the decisive criterion for customers in selecting a handling agent, while no minimum quality limits are determined. A 24/7 availability of all parties dealing with perishables is a necessity since closed offices cause delays in the release of shipments.

Client Export is not linked yet with a digital Airway Bill. This would significantly speed up the process, especially when flights are delayed. E-freight is important and synchronization of import documents is much desired.

In conclusion, each party at the point of exit and also at the destination has a big role to play in ensuring that the exports are handled with utmost care due to their perishability.

Efficiency in speed of delivery is of the paramount importance, as are appropriate temperature control measures during transit. For cargo handling companies it is important to invest in adequate infrastructure facilities.