Farm produce stuck due to ship shortage

Sunday March 24 2024
avocados pic

Kenya's avocado export earnings exceeded $137.9 million in 2023, mainly to Europe and Middle Eastern countries. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Tea, coffee, avocado and fresh produce farmers in Kenya are staring at losses as the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine continue to disrupt export routes.

The Mombasa and Dar es salaam ports have lately recorded a shortage of refrigerated containers (reefers) and normal containers, blamed on delays caused by longer cargo delivery time.

Increasing attacks on major ships through the Suez Canal, which is a key route to the East African coast, haveforced two of the world’s largest shipping groups — Mediterranean Shipping Company and Maersk — to divert their vessels via South Africa, extending the transit time by two weeks.

Shippers have termed the disruption as grave, considering Kenya’s bumper avocado harvest beginning February.

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Shippers Council of Eastern Africa acting chief executive Agayo Ogambi termed lack of reefers a big concern.


“The shortage will affect exports of avocado and other fresh produce,” Mr Ogambi said.

According to avocado exporters, the disruption has affected scheduled export dates, forcing some to suspend harvesting to mid-April when reefers are expected to arrive. Maersk, which handles more than 80 percent of Kenyan fresh produce confirmed delays.

“We encourage you to work closely with your customer service partners to verify equipment availability before proceeding with bookings and harvesting for March departures,” read a notice to its clients.

Over the past few months, a number of Maersk and MSC container ships have been attacked by Houthi rebels, which has reinforced the importance for shipping companies to map out alternative routes.