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Horticulture exporters decry hike in airfreight charges

Horticulture exporters decry hike in airfreight charges
Horticulture exporters decry hike in airfreight charges

Statistics by NAEB show that the value of horticulture exports increased from over $27 million in the fiscal year 2018-2019, to more than $28 million in the year 2019-2020.

Local exporters of horticulture produce have expressed concerns on the increase in airfreight fare brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, calling for a review in these charges so as to ensure smooth operation.

Horticulture produce involves vegetables, fruits, and flowers.

According to exporters, before Covid-19, Rwandair charged $1.2 per kilogram (kg) and now the price stands at $1.8 per kg.

Ethiopian Airlines also charged $1.4 per kg, depending on the weight one is exporting, but the current fare per kg is $2.2.

Both airlines are the main providers of cargo air transport currently.

Robert Rukundo, Managing of Almond Green Farm Ltd, a farm that deals with horticulture exports, told The New Times that the hike has negatively affected his business.

“The hike has affected us in various ways. Currently, the market is low, and we sell a kg at $ 2.92. If you deduct the fare of $1.8 per kg, the balance is $1.12 and you have a chain of costs such as payment of produce, transport, packaging materials, workers, cold storage and others that you need to address,” he said.

He added that: “This affected the revenues of every exporter doing this business. Personally, I have moved from exporting 3-5 tonnes to between 1.2 to 1.5tonnes weekly.”

Sakina Usengimana who works with Afrifoods Ltd that exports horticultural produce also told this paper that some exporters are leaving the business because of the hike.

“It was a good thing that we got a good harvest, but unfortunately the cargo freight charges went high and as a result, you find that the money offered by our clients will only cater for the transport fee and other costs, with no profit at all,” she said.

This reduced the quantity we export and has caused some of our colleagues to bow out of the business, she added.

Revise airfreight fare

Rukundo noted that there is a need for revised prices.

He said: “We are requesting Airlines to review the airfreight charges to facilitate us to make business.”

The same call was made by Usengimana who noted that: “Fair cargo charges will help us make profits again and prevent us from incurring double losses of reduced prices paid by our consumers and the one caused by high air freight charges.”

So far, the big market for local horticultural produce is European countries such as the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

Countries in the Middle-East as well Asia also serve as a market for the produce.

Pie Ntwari, Head of Communications and Public Relations at NAEB said that the concern is known, adding that there are plans in the pipeline to address it.

“We have had meetings with RwandAir Ltd as well as Ethiopian Airways that have been facilitating our exports out of the country. Along with partners, we have also managed to subsidize the freight charges as the rates increased significantly since the onset of the pandemic,” he added.

However, he said, it is still early to know when the issue will be completely solved because the state of the pandemic is unpredictable.

According to Ntwari, NAEB also worked with exporters by supporting them so that the export operations may continue, and will continuously work on ensuring that they have reliable cargo options, as this is the only way the sector can grow.

There are negotiations that are currently ongoing to that effect, he said.

Statistics by NAEB show that the value of horticulture exports increased from over $27 million in the fiscal year 2018-2019, to more than $28 million in the year 2019-2020.

Culled from Newtimes

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