The Eldoret International Airport is set for a major expansion as cargo operations normalise, 10 months after the suspension of the service due to low volumes.
The Investments, Trade and Industry and the Transport ministries on Tuesday said the airport, which has over the years been handling more imports and fewer exports, would see its runway expanded by 500 metres.
Cargo operations at the airport were suspended late last year amid claims of under-declaration of imported goods, which Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) said was costing it much-needed revenues.
Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said the airport was not operating optimally.
It emerged at a meeting between the Trade Ministry and cargo handlers under the Kenya Association of Cargo Consolidators that international airlines have been taking off from the airport empty despite landing with tonnes of cargo.
CS Kuria said Eldoret Airport is also shunned by some importers due to the high cost of operations, partly due to its short runway.
“We have low volumes of cargo. We had stopped operations because of the low volumes, but we have talked with stakeholders to increase the volumes,” he said when he welcomed an Ethiopian Airways Cargo plane to mark the return of operations at the airport. “The cost of cargo has been high compared to other airports in Kenya and in the East African Community because of a shorter runway. The runway will now be expanded by 500 metres.”
He said landowners adjacent to the airport have agreed to provide land for the planned expansion.
Kuria further said his ministry is working with Uasin Gishu County to scale up the export of agricultural produce. “The planned expansion of the airport is aimed at scaling up exports as well as imports,” he said.
The CS said tea produced in Kericho, Nandi, Nyamira and Kisii counties will now be exported from Eldoret to international tea centres, such as Dubai. Kenya Association of International Cargo Association chairman Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman said the lobby had ironed out all the issues that led to the suspension of operations. Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii said several cargo handling workers were laid off following the suspension of operations.