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Horticulture Sector Losing Shs 45 Million Daily Over Strike By Kenya Airways Pilots

The horticulture sector is losing at least Sh45 million on average every day due to the ongoing strike by Kenya Airways pilots, which has seen hundreds of tonnes of perishable produce that were to be flown out by the carrier stuck at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The industrial actions, which started on Saturday, has seen the airline’s pilots ground aircraft demanding more money and other perks a move that has negatively impacted exports of fresh produce.

The downing of tools is a blow to the horticulture industry as it comes during the high season when countries are placing orders ahead of the festive season and Valentine’s Day next year.

“On the bare minimum, we are losing at least Sh45 million on a day if you work with an average of $2.5 (Sh304) per kilogramme of all the commodities that we are not exporting,” said Ojepat Okisegere, chief executive officer of Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPCK).

KQ said it has been unable to ship out fresh produce since the strike started.

“We do an average of 150 tonnes daily but we have not exported anything since Saturday when the strike started,” said the carrier’s director of communication Dennis Kashero.

Mr Okisegere said the strike has affected the entire value chain with farms unable to harvest their produce for lack of assurance that it will be exported. This will see produce such as flowers and vegetables overgrow, meaning they can no longer be sent to the market.

Buyers overseas have also ceased orders for fear that whatever they may order from Kenya may not be delivered, hence impacting their business.

“Our customers overseas cannot place orders when they are not certain that they will not get what they would have ordered,” said Mr Okisegere.

Should the situation persist, overseas customers will have to find an alternative market over the uncertainty caused by the ongoing strike.

The pilots’ strike entered day three yesterday with the management and the union officials failing to strike an agreement.

The industrial action has seen the aviators ground both passenger and cargo flights. The national carrier operates at least three freighters to Europe, Africa, and the United Arabs Emirates.

The belly cargo in passenger flights accounts for up to 40 percent of the total freight that is transported by air.

The European Union still accounts for the largest portion of Kenyan horticultural exports, taking in 45 percent of the exports majorly comprising cut flowers, French beans, snow peas, and Asian vegetables.

Source: Business Africa Daily

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