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Flower exporters hit by Europe airspace closure

By | April 17th 2010

By Kipkirui K’Telwa and Reuters

Kenya's flower exporters are losing up to $2 million a day in earnings as a vast cloud of volcanic ash paralyses air transport in northern Europe, their association said on Saturday.

Earlier, European aviation control agency Euro-control said disruption of air traffic because of the spread of volcanic ash from Iceland would continue for at least the next 24 hours.

Already, Kenya Airways has issued a statement insisting that its flights to northern Europe remain cancelled. The airline advised passengers intending to travel to Paris, Amsterdam and London among other European destinations not to bother booking flights.

Water Minister Charity Ngilu among thousands of passengers stranded in London as volcanic ash cloud continues to disrupt European flights.

Flowers accounted for slightly more than half of the 71.6 billion Kenya shillings ($942 million) earned by horticulture exports in 2009. Together with fruits and vegetables, the industry was the largest hard currency earner last year in east Africa's biggest economy.

"In the last two days we have not been able to airlift any flowers. We usually export around 400-500 tonnes a day," Jane Ngige, chief executive of the 73-member Kenya Flower Council, told Reuters.

"That's about $1.5-2 million dollars on a daily basis."

Kenya accounts for 35 percent of the flower imports into the European Union.

She said the industry had been warned northern Europe's airspace is expected to remain shut for at least another 48 hours.

Kenya's flower exporters target matching last year's output and earnings in 2010 as delays in tax refunds and a harsh winter in Europe reduce the impact of a general recovery in demand.

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