By George Munene
According to the Fresh Produce consortium of Kenya (FPCK), exporters of fresh agricultural produce from Kenya have lost Sh 500 million and counting due to the ongoing strike by Kenya Airways (KQ) pilots.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Franklin Mithika Linturi has urged the national carrier and its pilots to work swiftly to resolve the crisis. Over 100 metric tonnes of daily fresh produce destined for export remain stored in local warehouses.
“Both traders and producers that rely on Kenya Airways to export their fresh produce are in dire straits. We urge the Government to exercise its labour relations mechanisms to work on ending the strike for the sake of the local economy”, said the CEO of FPCK Okisegere Ojepat during a meeting by organised French-based inspection and accreditation company Bureau Veritas and FPCK aimed at promoting food safety along Kenya’s agriculture value chain.
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The industrial strike which as of 8th November is on its fourth day has seen 56 flights and counting fail to take off and about 400 tonnes of perishable agricultural goods– 75 per cent comprised of cut flowers, and 25 per cent of raw meat– rotting at JKIA since early Saturday.
“The impact of the KQ pilots’ strike on the horticulture industry is huge as the majority of producers and traders rely on the national carrier to ship their fresh produce to various export destinations globally, especially to the European Union,” Linturi said.
He added that the government is working to ensure that future industrial labour action does not totally halt fresh produce exports from getting to their destined markets. “We will look into incentivising private players to invest in the cargo business so that if airplanes of our national carrier are grounded again the impact will not be as devastating to our agriculture sector”.
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Total losses in revenue have been averted by using alternative airlines such as KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, Air France, and Egypt Airlines.
Kenya Airways through its KQ Fresh arm is Kenya’s exporter of agricultural cargo. Through an airport-to-airport service, it caters to the transportation of perishable products such as fresh fruits, flowers, vegetables, fish, meat, and dairy products.
Horticulture and tea are Kenya’s leading sources of foreign exchange. In 2021, the country earned over Sh296 billion from their exports.