Data gaps big hurdle in fresh produce exports, says forum

Shipping & Logistics

 

Lack of information sharing among the players in the fresh produce value chain has been identified as a key set back in the industry, degrading its potential in the agricultural industry.

From farmers, transporters, cold storage chain providers and exporters, the silence along the chain is said to be a costly scenario with calls for data sharing and information exchange to unlock the industry’s potential that is now gathering pace.

At a recent logistics conference held in Nairobi, the perishable goods dealers agreed to create a seamless information sharing that would ensure their operations are run according to plan and minimise wastage occasioned by poor information flow.

Lufthansa Cargo Global Industry Manager,Agriculture and Fresh, Wouter Boekee said lack of information sharing has been a key logistic headache for the airline in planning for the peak season for various fresh produces whose logistic needs vary.

“We find it hard for example to tell what volumes of which fresh produce we should expect from one region in different seasons. When we have either under planned or over planned, either players end up at a loss,” said Mr Boekee who was among the panellists at the conference. “Information sharing is a critical conversation we must start having for an efficient flow of business in this industry.”

The losses include wastage when the cargo reaches the airport and has to wait for cargo space to be available to export them, as well as an empty cargo provision when the products are under-delivered by the farmers and exporters.

The conference organised by the Flower Logistics Africa (FLA) on and Perishable Logistics Africa (PLA) also heard that the lack of a proper fresh produce database with accurate production projections has caused a deficiency in cold storage facilities investments, creating massive losses for the products.

Cold storage facilities, which is a capital-intensive venture, would require accurate data to help potential investor project the rate of return on the investments and to avoid falling into the loss trap with under supply or missed business opportunities when the fresh produce volumes surpass their installations capacity.

“We are almost left firefighting all the time because we are handling fresh products with very strict standards prescribed by the international market. I agree with the fact that we need to share information so that we also understand other market dynamics like what is expected to be in supply in different periods,” said Miyonga Fresh Greens founder Yvonne Otieno.

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The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), which assist fresh produce dealers understand the different phytosanitary standards countries set for their products, also said there is need to establish a proper information exchange among players including the regulator to enable it play its role in facilitating the fresh produce trade.

Kephis general manager for Phytosanitary Services Dr Isaac Macharia said the regulator will continue to give the required support for the fresh produce dealers in issuing plant passports which are mandatory for any plant crossing borders. “Every trader must have a plant passport to move their produce and we at Kephis would equally benefit from such data to enable us prepare to provide the passports to the fresh produce dealers. This an industry where planning is key and information drives the planning process,” Dr Macharia said.

Horticulture exports, which earned the country some Sh104 billion in the first eight months of 2018 due to proper rainfall, is expected to earn more with the direct flights between Nairobi and New York.

A recent deal with China is also expected to open more market for cut flower dealers who have traditionally relied on a single economic bloc, the European Union, exposing them to trade vulnerabilities.

Most Kenyan flower reach China through the Netherlands-based international flower auction