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Kenya's deadlock puts Tanzanians horticultural under siege

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Adam Ihucha  Feb 06, 2008

Arusha, Tanzania (eTN) - A multi-million-dollars horticultural industry in Tanzania has endured an “irreparable losses,” thanks to the deadly Kenya's post-election violence.

Expectations were high that players in the horticultural industry would raise their glasses to toast for remarkable earnings this year, particularly during the forthcoming Valentine’s Day, but these expectations and hopes have turned into nightmares.

Officials says the lucrative trade has suffered gigantic financial damage of up to US$185,000, (about to Tshs. 222m) in just one month following a wave of cancellation of cargo flights in Nairobi.

Nearly 65 percent of Tanzania's total annual flower exports pass through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, according to Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA).

TAHA executive director Jacqueline Mkindi termed the damage as an "irreparable losses" that puts local horticultural industry under siege.

As a result, the slaughter makes a majority of key players in the sector to be dismayed especially when the flowers are not uplifted.

"Few available cargo planes in JKIA had accorded Kenya's flowers with first priority leaving us with no alternative. So we saw in pain our lovely rose flowers rotting in the cold rooms," TAHA Boss noted.

At the Julius Nyerere International Airport (DSM) the flower exporters also faced a similar situation as most of freight spaces were overbooked by fish-fillets from Mwanza.

Some of these investors were granted loans by the government of Tanzania through Tanzania Investment bank (TIB) so as to increase the production volumes. Jacqueline said the investors are upset by the fact that their products cannot reach the market; hence they might not be able to service the loan as per the agreement.
"Unless there is a dedicated cargo flight from Tanzania to the European markets, the local horticultural industry growth will take years," Jacqueline said.

"At the moment we have no dedicated cargo flights at KIA making it difficult for many exporters to access the European markets directly. Most of them have to go through Nairobi, at an extra cost," she explained.

Nairobi flights are expensive particularly for exporters who have low volumes of produce.

TAHA efforts to attract direct cargo flight, however had apparently hit snags as most of the International carriers like Ethiopian Airline, Cargo B of Brussels and South African Airline are interested to bring Boeing 707 with capacity of 70 tons, while TAHA members' average capacity stands at 40 tons per flight three times a week. "To have a direct airfreight at KIA we need collective efforts or to be precise we should forge a strong public-private partnership in order to push the agenda into a reality," Jacqueline stressed.

TAHA boss implored government agencies like Tanzania investment center, Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority, Tanzania Aviation Authority to collaborate effectively with the private sector in a bid to attract cargo flights.

"All growers must also commit themselves in terms of cargo volumes," she said, stressing that the current 40 tons thrice per week are not attractive enough to convince airfreights to land in Tanzania's soil.

TAHA, however, is very grateful to Tanzania Investment Bank for extending loans to its members and willingness to guarantee cargo operations at KIA.

"Apart from TIB, we are also happy with our government for its tireless efforts to ensure that the horticultural industry is growing," Jacqueline said. She also, however, implored the government to consider reviewing the incentive package for the horticultural sector for a faster growth.

At the moment, horticultural industry is enjoying support from Dutch government, USAID, BEST-AC to mention but a few. Through USAID support project (Tanzania Airfreight Project- TAP), TAHA and Fintrac Inc. are working in partnership to ensure that the airfreight challenge is addressed.

TAHA is a fast growing organization with 48 members, earning the country over US$45million per year, employing more than 10,000 people. TAHA represents the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector which plays a significant role in the country's economy.
Horticultural production started in Tanzania in the 1950s, but it was not until 1970s that the produce was exported to Europe. The first cut flower farm was established in 1989.

Exports of vegetables commenced in the 1970s but it was in 2000 that exports of significant volumes started. With the advent of commercial horticulture many farmers have tried their hand on the business but have found it too challenging and given up while others have endured and survived. Analysts say that there is very slow take up of horticulture business in Tanzania.

TAHA was registered in the country in April 2004 as the industry lobby. Its formation owes its roots to the reconstitution of the erstwhile Tanzania Flower Association (TAFA). According to industry sources, its reconstitution was necessary since TAFA was more focused on the flower industry.

Kenyans came face to face with the ugly side of general elections on December 30, 2007 when simultaneous violent demonstrations erupted across the country following the announcement by the chairman of Kenya's Electoral Commission, Samuel Kivuitu, that the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, had won the presidential elections which were largely described as flawed and falling below the internationally accepted standards.

Nearly 900 lives have since been lost and more than 3000 families displaced in the aftermath.

There are growing fears that if the violence continue unabated, the turnaround that the East African economy recorded in the past three years, the growing business confidence, escalating tourism arrivals, progress in firm level productivity, gains in democratic development, could all be wiped out.

Kenya's deadlock puts Tanzanians horticultural under siege



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