Flying flowers

02.28.18

According to the Wall Street Journal, a logistical logjam with global airborne trade threatened to damage the most profitable – and romantic – time of the year for one of the world’s top rose exporters: Kenya.

In recent months, the accelerating global economic recovery, a boon for blooms, has diverted cargo aircraft to more-profitable routes in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, and away from less-profitable ones in Africa.

The trend couldn’t have come at a worse time for the East African nation that has become a global flower powerhouse. (Kenya is fourth in the export of all cut flowers by value and third in the export of roses.) With air carriers insisting on flexibility and waiting until the last minute to commit to cargo flights, Kenya’s freight crunch around Valentine’s Day was hard to circumvent given the short life of cut flowers.

“If we were flying iPhones, we’d just leave them to one side for a week. The rose starts dying the minute it is cut. It can’t wait,” said Conrad Archer, a managing director at Swiss freight forwarder Panalpina, which carries about a quarter of Kenya’s perishables including flowers, fruits and vegetables.

The disruptions caused by the freight crunch lay bare the continued weakness of African export markets despite a decade of better integration through trade and growth. The freight crunch has punctured some Kenyan growers’ expectations for a robust crop in 2018 – a much-needed recovery after election-related turmoil hit the local economy last year.

Kenya has long been a big flower producer because of its excellent growing conditions, but the industry scaled up and became more professional over the past few decades as routes opened to Europe and technological advances helped traditional farming. (Source: Wall Street Journal)


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