The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) projects that the freight cost for flower exports to the US will halve with direct flights between the two countries.
Cargo flights are currently charging Sh400 ($4) per kilogramme of flowers shipped to America via Amsterdam or South Africa. KFC says the charges are high because of the transit stopover.
“It is going to be cheaper for us to export our flowers to the US once direct flights to America start, this will be a big boost to our growers who will see their earnings improve,” said chief executive officer Jane Ngigi.
The council is gathering market intelligence on the status of the American market, entry points and investment opportunities.
Volumes of flowers exports last year grew incrementally to 133,000 tonnes from 130,000 tonnes the previous year, according to data from the Horticulture Development Centre.
Ms Ngige said the US market would raise competition for Kenyan flowers globally as currently nearly all the produce from the country is sold in Europe.
“Exports to the US implies we will have diversified our markets and we will no longer have to rely on Europe as our major buyer; this will make our produce competitive because of an alternative market,” she said.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was this year granted Category One status by American authorities, enabling direct flights from Nairobi expected to start in the next few months.
Dick Van Ramsdonk, president of HPP Exhibitions, said Kenyan flowers are gaining popularity in the US but remain costly to transport.
“Kenya’s flowers are a sensation in the US but until the categorisation, it has been costly and lengthy to ship the country’s flowers to the world’s biggest market of our flower after the EU,” said Mr Ramsdonk.
He said with the flights, more American buyers will be coming to Nairobi next month during the sixth edition of the International Flower Trade Expo, noting that they have received a lot of confirmations and increasing inquiries from.
Kenya is currently contributing over 35 per cent share to the global flower trade that continues to grow despite stiff competition from Ecuador, Ethiopia and Colombia.
Last year the industry brought in a total of Sh71 billion, making up 70 per cent of earnings from horticultural exports. The industry also accounts for 17 per cent of the country’s GDP.