By Beth Ngugi

The Kenya Airways direct flight to New York is an exciting promise of an expanded market which will mean increased trade opportunities for Kenya fresh produce farmers. The permit is scheduled to be effective from 5th September. “Scheduled and charter foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail from any point or points behind Kenya and any intermediate points, to any points or points in the United states and beyond,” The US department of transportation filling stated.

The horticulture industry began exploring the US market back in 2005 based on the fact that North America gets its produce mostly from South America and Kenya being a natural producer, it could find a Niche market.

Kenya Horticulture Council CEO Ms. Jane Ngige noted that with the direct flight to USA the Kenyan produce would complement not compete with products from South America.

“Roses from South America have big heads whose petals fall easily whereas the Kenyan roses are smaller and not top heavy and tend to stay longer to 14 days. The only impediment was absence of direct flights but now we can complement product from South America,” Jane noted.

Flower export Kenya

Kenya horticulture industry increased its earnings from Ksh. 58 Billion in 2016 to Ksh. 64 Billion in 2017

Jane said that previously produce went through Europe or South America which means that by the time it lands, its landing at a cost of between 3.5 to 4,5 dollars per kilo which makes the Kenyan produce very uncompetitive compared to other countries like Ethiopian flowers which land in the market place at a cost pf between 1.8 to 2 dollars per kilo because they fly on their own national carrier.

“With the direct flight to New York we hope and expect that the cost of Kenya-produced flowers will reduce substantially as well as improve our competitiveness.”

This comes at a time when the horticulture industry increased its earnings from 58 billion shilling in 2016 to 64 billion shillings in 2017 from its exports mainly to Europe. The earnings which were recorded in the first six months of 2017 saw the month of March outshine the rest by exporting 14.4 metric tonnes worth 11.1 billion shillings which was an increase from the previous year which exported 12.4 metric tonnes valued at 8.4 billion. This is according to the Agriculture and Food Authority.

With the fruit market expanding across Europe and farmers acquiring training on proper farm management and reducing chemical use while promoting natural pest control methods, Fruit farmers exported 37.3 MT at a cost of 5.3 billion shillings which was a boost from the previous year which exported 30.1 MT at a cost of 4.3 billion shillings.

However Fresh vegetables increased, farmers earned less from 42.8 MT at 10.8 billion shillings compared to last year 35 MT that collected in 12.7 billion shillings. Cut flowers recorded a 23% increase from the sales of 25MT valued at 48 Billion shillings up from the 41.1 billion shillings recorded from the sale of 49 MT the previous year 2016.

This article first appeared in the HortiNews Magazine