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Flower industry lauds State move to ease port clearance process

Fertiliser suppliers losing Sh2m daily in demurrage charges after government ordered all imported fertiliser re-inspected

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Captains of the Kenya flower industry have hailed the government’s move to reduce the number of clearing agents at the port of Mombasa to four.

Floriculture heads say the move will expedite clearance of fertiliser at the port, which will ensure that agricultural inputs get to market on time.

Speaking during the recently concluded Eighth edition of the International Flower Trade Expo (Iftex) in Nairobi, Dr Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary, State Department of Trade apologised for the inconveniences the delays have caused to the industry. He promised to streamline the government’s investments and commitments to the sector.

“I take this opportunity to apologise to the sector for the great loss it suffered occasioned by the delays at the port of Mombasa. Following consultations between the government and stakeholders, we have reduced the inspection of the fertiliser process and left only four agencies to fast-track clearance,” Dr Kiptoo said.

The latest directive is among measures the government has introduced to support the flower industry that has continued to defy harsh economic and weather trends to record sustained earnings and growth.

Last year, the flower industry surpassed the target set by the government by 38 per cent under the export strategy where each sector was given specified milestones to accomplish.

Guests and exhibitors at the expo. Photo/MILLIAM MURIGI

It is now the second largest foreign exchange earner after tea and ahead of tourism, which recorded a new high of two million tourist arrivals last year.

“Flower earnings continue to impress due to trade exhibitions such as Iftex, which brings buyers from over 60 destinations where Kenya’s flower exports go to, to meet with flowers under one roof. In this show, numerous deals will be made,” said Dr Kiptoo.

Elgon Kenya, an agro-input company has also hailed the government’s latest move,  which it says has allowed the industry to recoup its earnings and ensure farmers are able to get the input in time.

“We thank the President for the directive he gave allowing faster clearance of fertiliser. It has allowed us to calm market jitters and reach more farmers in time avoiding a looming food shortage,” said Bimal Kantaria, Elgon Kenya CEO.

The delay was experienced after the government introduced new regulations in August 2018 for all imported fertiliser re-inspected at the port of entry as it sought to tame proliferation of counterfeits.

The directive saw a lengthy clearance process that ran for up to two months before the consignment could be released creating an unprecedented shortage. Fertiliser suppliers were incurring up to Sh2 million shillings daily in demurrage.

Magana Flowers, growers and exporters also welcomed the government’s decision saying it will go a long way in boosting the grower’s earnings and allowing uninterrupted production.

“It is a landmark directive that will boost our operations. For us, the cost of fertiliser went up by 39 per cent for the better part of last year. Unfortunately, we absorbed this cost, as it cannot be passed to our buyers. We operate in a business that thrives on reliability and a little deviation due to challenges here at home can easily jeopardise client loyalty,” said Nicholas Ambanya, Magana Flowers CEO.

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