When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, global supply chains were hit hard, affecting millions of workers across the globe. In the Kenyan floriculture sector, the subsequent 25-40% air freight reduction has meant lower export rates, a supply slowdown, and loss of jobs for thousands. At FlowerWatch, we’re involved in a project of the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that is using sea freight to protect the jobs of around 18,000 workers in Kenya’s flower industry – while making the Kenya-to-Europe flower supply chain more cost-effective, resilient, and sustainable.
As a response to the pandemic, the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) set up the Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility (VSCF). VSCF is a rapid COVID-19 response facility managed by Mott MacDonald. The Facility partners with twenty UK and international retailers and brands, and nine not-for-profit organizations, supporting over a hundred suppliers across Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. It will provide economic, social, and health benefits to around one million women and men directly and indirectly.
A sustainable, cost-effective alternative
As Kenya exports a large share of its flowers to the UK, it was vital to alleviate the pressure of falling air freight capacity in this market. The VSCF sponsored a project to adopt more sea freight exports, which offer a sustainable and cost-effective way around the challenge of reduced air freight availability. Working with Flamingo Horticulture, the VSCF Sea Freight Flowers Project was born. Flamingo’s Ibis farm was trained in sea freight, and now, seven months later, has successfully shipped five containers from Kenya to the UK using sea freight. Remarkably, the flowers’ vase life shows that they arrived in the same, if not better, condition compared to those shipped by air. At FlowerWatch, we played a key role in the training, quality checks, and vase life tests that led to this success. Overall, the project will protect the jobs of around 18,000 workers.
Making the industry more resilient
Founder and Managing Director of FlowerWatch, Jeroen van der Hulst, says: “This project has helped to fast-forward the implementation of sea freight in the Kenya-to-Europe flower supply chain. It is a worthwhile development that makes the Kenyan industry more resilient, efficient, and sustainable.”
This article was previously featured on LinkedIn.