April 22nd, 2010
09:52 AM GMT
If you live in Europe or Japan, it is highly likely that the cut flowers you buy at your local market or in the supermarket are from Kenya. So when the Icelandic volcano disrupted air travel into Europe, the impact was keenly felt here in Africa.
The Kenyan Flower Council chief executive, Jane Ngige, told my colleague Zain Verjee, that the Kenyan flower industry lost about two million dollars a day during the crisis. What made the fall-out even worse for Kenyans was that it is now peak export season because Europeans celebrate Mother’s Day in May. The timing, it seems, couldn’t have been worse.
The Kenyan flower growers harvest everyday at this time of the year so they couldn’t store all their unsent blooms in cold rooms. So there are reports of many farmers just dumping tons of roses and other flowers into compost pits or leaving their excess flowers to rot in cargo areas of airports.
Geared for export, the Kenyan flower industry is a large employer, of mostly women, who cut, grade and package flowers for foreign markets. Across the horticultural industry in Kenya, there are reports of at least five thousand laborers who have already lost their jobs as a direct consequence of the volcanic ash cloud financial fall-out. The Kenyan horticultural industry is estimated to be a billion-dollar business.
After this unprecedented grounding of aircraft, there are similar stories here in South Africa. Cargo carriers of perishable foods such as meat, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables are already starting to count the costs of not being able to send their goods into Europe. Industry analysts say cargo volumes from South Africa have halved.
The impact has been felt along the supply chain – fruit suppliers have been told to stop production and fisherman have been put on shore leave until there was a better sense of when flights would resume and schedules would return to normal. The backlog could take weeks to sort out though.
One cargo company told a local newspaper that they had 90 tons of fish and 25 tons of ostrich meat that had to be shipped to Europe immediately or resold to the local market.
So I am expecting to see an increase in ostrich meat specials on the menus of many South African restaurants.
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