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State mulls hiring fresh produce cargo planes after KQ pilots' strike

 Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi says the government may consider contracting special cargo aircraft to ferry fresh produce to cushion the sector from losses occasioned by the Kenya Airways (KQ) pilots’ strike.

The pilots are demanding the reinstatement of their provident fund, a pension plan that both pilots and KQ contribute to.

Mr Linturi said Monday the strike, which entered its third day on Monday, has affected the export of over 100 tonnes of produce so far.

A big chunk of this (75 per cent), said the CS, is horticultural produce, while the rest is meat.

“We have to ensure our exporters get support from the government to guarantee when there are such labour issues, we have an alternative,” said Mr Linturi during a breakfast meeting with stakeholders in the fresh produce sector at a Nairobi hotel.

The Directorate of Horticulture noted that the higher demand for Kenyan fruits, vegetables and flowers pushed up the volumes by 30 per cent in the period, which helped to boost the earnings despite lower average export prices compared to those seen in 2020.

Yesterday, CS Linturi expressed hope that the striking pilots would come to an agreement with KQ soon.

KQ Chief Executive Allan Kilavuka said in a statement that since the strike started on Saturday, the airline had not flown out any fresh produce to the key markets of the Middle East and Europe.

“On average, we carry we carry about 150 tonnes of produce,” said Mr Kilavuka.  

Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya Chief Executive Okisegere Ojepat urged the government to hold special talks with cargo pilots to alleviate the problem

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