Dutch envoy tells flower exporters to use sea transport

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The Dutch government has asked Kenyan cut flower exporters to consider the use of refrigerated ships instead of air freight as a measure to cut down on costs and protect the environment. Dutch ambassador to Kenya Joost Reintjes at the same time dismissed claims that the Netherland’s flower auction, the largest in the world has been affected by the opening up of new overseas markets that circumvent the country.

The envoy said the benefits of sea transport as opposed to air transport were immense, especially with regards to cutting down carbon emissions. “Exporters here need to look at the entire value chain and not just flowers. Refrigerated containers if shipped to export destinations ensures the cost is lowered on the part of the exporter and and carbon footprint is tamed and international standard requirement adhered to,” said Reintjes.

The ambassador’s remarks were in reference to to previous campaigns in which some supermarkets in the United Kingdom boycotted fresh produce air freighted from Africa. Reintjes spoke at a Nairobi hotel during a forum that brought together stakeholders in the cut flower industry and which also doubled as the launch of a carbon reduction and opportunities toolkit that for the first time, will enable flower farms to measure their carbon emissions.

In the wake of the UK boycott, local exporters have been on the overdrive to explore new markets for their produce especialy in Russia, the United States of America, south east Asia, Middle East, Japan, Nigeria and South Korea. HIVOS International, a non governmental organisation last year grabbed headlines across the globe when it carried out a spirited campaign to discredit the country’s multi billion flower horticultural sub-sector.

The innovative kit has been developed by Camco Advisory Service in conjunction with Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) with support from climate and development knowledge network. Ambassador Reintjes called for increased sensitisation among stakeholders including KFC on the correct position with regards to carbon emissions and at the same time pushed for increased investment in other sectors of the economy to boost the local horticultural industry.

“But Kenya has to make its infrastructure like the Nairobi-Mombasa road a priority to make the industry sustainable,” said the ambassador. Netherlands is the largest importer of local cut flowers, of an industry that contributes over Sh22 billion annually to the economy.

Kenya’s flower sector has been growing at an average of 20 per cent per annum over the lat three decades and the country is now a leading exporter of cut flowers to the European Union contributing to over 35 per cent of all flower sales. “The flower industry is moving towards markets sustainability, reduction of costs and efficient utilisation of resources at all times and it is important as a country to know what measures to take to manage bad and good situations,” said KFC chief executive Jane Ngige.

By WAHINYA HENRY for the People Daily