Kenya: Coronavirus crisis brings joy to the horticultural sector

Stake: To understand how the current disruptions in supply chains have had a (broadly) positive impact on the Kenyan horticultural sector.
In the wake of the disruption to global supply chains caused by the coronavirus health crisis, horticultural prices have soared, much to the delight of the Kenyan industry.

In strong growth since the 1990s, the Kenyan horticultural sector continued its upward trajectory in the first quarter of 2020, seeming to defy the economic crisis born in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, the latest quarterly figures from the Horticulture Directorate show that the value of national horticultural production increased by 8 billion shillings ($75 million) over the same period in 2019 to reach 47 billion shillings ($439 million), an increase of 21 per cent. This performance is all the more remarkable given that, at the same time, export volumes fell by 14% (from 98,000 tons to 84,000 tons) as a direct result of the disruption in global supply chains since the onset of the coronavirus health crisis.

Benjamin Tito, head of the Horticulture Directorate, as quoted by the Business Daily, explains this apparent paradox by the fact that difficulties in the global supply of horticultural products have mechanically « […] pushed up the prices of available products, especially Kenyan horticultural products, thus more than compensating for the drop in volumes ». Ojepat Okesegere, head of the Fresh Produce Consortium - a local organization of fresh produce exporters - also mentioned by the Kenyan newspaper, agrees, noting that « orders are there and the market is willing to pay more … », while recalling that « cargo flights remain a challenge. A positive trend which, according to the manager, should continue in the second quarter, as Mother’s Day in May is traditionally a busy time for the horticultural sector.
Truly launched in the 1990s, the Kenyan horticultural sector of exported products (beans, cut flowers, avocados…) is today one of the most flourishing sectors of the leading East African economy with 575 million dollars of goods shipped in 2018, twenty times more than in 1992 (27 million dollars). A sector which, beyond the intrinsic qualities of local production, also owes much to the efficiency of the logistics model set up by the State around the hub of Jomo-Kenyatta International Airport (cold stores, the nearby Nairobi Horticulture Centre, a large pool of skilled labour, etc.).

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