Kenya starts talks on direct flights between Nairobi, Latin America countries

Lack of direct flights to Latin America has hampered Kenya’s quest to sell its horticultural produce in South American states.

Kenya’s flowers are re-exported to Brazil from other European nations, denying farmers handsome returns on their produce.

Trade principal secretary Chris Kiptoo said that there is a need for Kenya and Latin America to work towards establishing direct flights to the region.

“Our produce cannot access the Latin America market directly for lack of direct flights between the two continents but we are trying to work out something to establish one,” said Dr Kiptoo.

Dr Kiptoo, who was speaking during an international business summit in Nairobi between Kenya, Latin America and the Caribbean countries, said Kenya is seeking to bypass Europe and sell its flowers directly to these nations.

Currently, Latin America gets its flowers from the Netherlands auction, which imports Kenyan produce for resale to Latin and Caribbean countries.

“We want to use these negotiations to increase our trade ties with Latin America and one of the things that we are looking at is seeking direct sale of our flowers to these countries,” said Dr Kiptoo.

Dr Kiptoo noted that Kenya has minimal trade with LAC countries because of poor connectivity.

Last year, Brazil said it was ready to allow Kenya Airways to start direct flights to the South American country but the process was delayed by Kenya’s failure to ratify a 2010 agreement reached between the two states.

The Brazilian envoy said that she was not certain if Kenya’s enthusiasm for non-stop flights was intact given that the MoU had taken so long to be ratified.

Regionally, it is only Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airlines that fly to Brazil with stopovers in their respective capital cities as well as Rome and Sao Paulo before landing in Rio De Janeiro.

Kenya’s earnings from cut flowers rose 18 per cent to Sh53.3 billion in the first nine months of this year compared with Sh45.1 billion during corresponding period last year.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicate that the value of exports grew significantly this year to September as opposed to the similar period in 2015.

According to Kenya Flower Council (KFC) the country’s export market in Europe has grown over the years bringing in 600,000 euros in foreign exchange last year.

However, KFC says that there is a need to diversify the market by cutting reliance on Europe.

Brazil remains Kenya’s biggest export trading partner in Latin America in terms of total trade value.

Dr Kiptoo also noted that there is inadequate representation to LAC countries with only one embassy in Brazil that covers Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela.

“Cuba is diplomatically covered from Canada with no other mission in the Caribbean counties,” he said.

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