Fresh produce exports kindle Moi Airport in Mombasa

KQ personnel load farm produce into a plane ready for export. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

After a lull in international passenger arrivals occasioned by Covid-19, Moi International Airport in Mombasa is bouncing back rejuvenated by exports in fresh produce.

Speaking during an interview in Mombasa yesterday, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate (Kephis) Coast Regional Manager Thomas Kosiom said since the beginning of the year, increased exports of fresh produce through the facility destined for Europe have been recorded.

Most of the produce ends up in markets in Germany and the Netherlands.

“The recent upgrade at the airport and lobbying by both private sector players and the government has led to more activities at the cargo terminal,” he said.

Okisegere Ojepat, the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPCK) CEO said chilies form a huge part of the exports.

The Moi International Airport underwent a Sh7.5 billion upgrade that involved replacing the steel in airfield and ground lighting systems as well as all approach lighting masts with fibreglass.

The cargo terminal and cold room also got a facelift. Last week, 13 tonnes of chilies were shipped out to Frankfurt, Germany by Invour Fresh, Forever Green Growers Limited, Phyma Fresh Produce Limited, Reaf Fresh and Wermont Flowers Limited.

Kenya Airways and German leisure airliner Lufthansa were in charge of the freight.

“We are merely scratching the surface. The market is looking for a consistent supply of produce. We have the ability to fulfill global demand,” Mr Ojepat said.

The latest developments come at a time when earnings from horticulture exports hit a historic high last year at Sh158 billion to remain the leading foreign exchange earner in the last two years, staying ahead of tea and tourism.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that earnings from fresh produce grew by seven per cent from Sh150 billion earned the previous year.

Whereas tea and tourism were impacted negatively since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, horticulture has been recording impressive earnings in the last two years.

Tourism recorded Sh146 billion last year with tea earning the country Sh136 billion.

“It is time to diversify our exports and stop over-reliance on traditional commodities like tea, coffee and even tourism,” he said.

He noted that FPCK has teamed up with various agencies to support members to access markets locally and internationally.

“We are excited to see proper coordination between the different government agencies in ensuring that there is a timely shipment of fresh produce into the market while at the same time abiding to set standards for exports,’’ he said.

Kosiom said apart from chillies, there has been a steady rise in exports of fresh produce like french beans, flowers, avocados and pineapples through the  Moi International Airport.