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    KQ july cargo schedule

    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.

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    Small-scale farmers must first identify the market for goods they intend to produce to avoid surplus and competition that lead to low prices.

    Charles Odida, a renowned Western Kenya large-scale sugarcane and maize farmer said producing for imaginary consumers chocks the market, which cannot seep the surplus.

    Farmers sell produce at low prices when there is a surplus harvest to even recover costs incurred, moreso for perishables. Even non-perishables like grains, still sell at dismal prices for fear of post-harvest losses resulting from poor storage.

    “Before one starts producing maize, they must know who their target market is. It will be helpful to know if indeed a given institution will need one's product after harvesting. This will also guide how much one needs to produce to meet the demand of the clients,” he said.

    For instance, maize, which he has produced on small-scale and large-scale, he first contacted institutions and asked them how much they would need in a year.

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    Based on this information, he had a target to meet, therefore, adhering to the correct ratio of inputs was the only option to deliver a yield that would satisfy all his clients.

    “When I was still at primary school, I identified that teachers needed vegetables. I had to work out how to constantly supply them with vegetables. I curved out my market, which never faced competition or loss due to lack of market,” Odida said.

    The farmer added that he has succeeded in agribusiness on more than 100 acres because of focusing on the quantity of the yield per acre, not the size of his maize and sugar fields.

    He said technology should only complement existing knowledge such as proper timing, best crop husbandry in the field, and proper post-harvest practices to maximise profits.

    Odida played down claims that many agribusiness innovations are shelved for lack of implementation funds.

    “Agriculture is the only enterprise that allows for farmers to start with the least capital. Even with a big piece of land, you can start small on a portion, which can swallow inputs that you afford. After the first harvest, you can increase the acreage following good return from the past season,” he said.

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    Umati Capital's Munyutu Waigi cautioned farmers against cooperatives, which he said do not add value other than eating into their earnings.

    At the same time, he said, bank loans do not add value to production, and access to funds is too slow.

    Kenya Biologics Chief Executive Officer said high yields can be realised by more specialisation on a given product.

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    Tired of unscrupulous middlemen who buy their potato at a low price and selling at a higher cost made potato farmers in Shamata area in Nyandarua County start a cooperative through which they earn supply tenders, share transport costs and other labour costs thus helping them in economy of scale.

    Nyandarwa Farmers’ Cooperative has earned supply tenders with various food processing companies like Sereni Fries, Krumble Fresh, Beepa Industries Ltd where they supply potatoes to meet the companies’ high demand.

    “It requires individual farmer to own above 30 acres of potato farm in order to earn supply tender with the food companies something many small scale farmers may not afford, so a cooperative has helped us reach where we could not individually,” said Mr. Steven Mwangi Mwaniki, the cooperative’s technical committee chairperson.

    The majority of the cooperative members own between 3-5 acres pieces of land.  This means individual effort cannot meet the high demand of potatoes by processing firms since local markets in Nyandarwa do not pay off well compared to the farmers’ expectations.

    Nyandarwa Farmers’ Cooperative which was started early 2016 has smallholder famers who only grow potato for commercial purposes. The cooperative which is almost two years old now has a progressive membership of 140.

    “We started with few farmers in informal groupings till we decided to formalize our course in a bid to earn the trust of the members, since then the number has been increasing as our success continue to manifest seasons after seasons,” said Mwaniki.

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    He says that as a group farmers are able to harvest and bring together 100 tonnes of potatoes which is about 100, 000 metric tonnes that they can harvest in a season. This is equivalent to 100, 000,000 kilograms.

    As a cooperative, they sell their potatoes between Sh15-40 per kilo depending on the potato variety to the food processing companies. This means in a given season they are able to earn over Sh2, 500, 000, 000 using an average of Sh25 per kilo. The remaining potatoes which do not meet the companies’ standards are sold in the local markets between Sh12-20 per kilo depending on the variety too.

    A kilo of potato is transported to the company at two shilling and the farmers are paid a week after delivery.

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    According to the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), Kenya’s potato value chain involves approximately 2.7 million people among them 800,000 smallholder farmers and it contributes to more than Sh50 billion (USD 500 million) to the economy.

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