The flower industry and logistics firms working in this space are used to volatility, but the rollercoaster that weather conditions created in the first half of 2018 has been hard to stomach.
Flower growers in Kenya enjoyed record output in the first two months of the year, only to see production plumb new depths over the following months.
Thanks to the powerful momentum in January and February, Kenya’s horticulture exports in the first four months were up 40.4% in terms of revenue to KSh56.83bn ($564.63m), but the following months brought a sharp contraction.
“It’s been a year full of turmoil for African growers,” says Conrad Archer, regional head of perishables, MEAC region, at Panalpina.
Growers in South America were also affected by cold temperatures and rain over three months, notes Colin Wells, global head perishables, of Panalpina.
As in Africa, the year had started well in South America. In the run-up to Valentine’s Day LATAM Cargo carried more than 9,500 tonnes of flowers, most of it on 163 freighter flights. Air France-KLM Cargo hauled some 7,000 tonnes of flowers out of Latin America in the first four months of the year.
Much of this was driven by Valentine’s Day and women’s days, which pushed up volumes 15% above last year’s levels, reports Enrique Falcon Deville, AF-KLM Cargo director South America.
Seasonal spikes are massive, especially Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Miami-based forwarder Flora Logistics usually handles 3,000- 5,000 boxes of flowers a day, but the seasonal highs generate 10,000- 15,000 boxes a day, says Linda Nuñez, director of sales and marketing.
For most Kenyan rose growers, Valentine’s Day accounts for 30% of their annual sales, according to the Kenya Flower Council.
After the problems of recent months, players are hoping for a better run for the remainder of the year. Conditions in Africa improved in August and strong volumes are predicted until October, and possibly beyond, believes Andy Leslie, group chairman of Network Airline Services (NAS).
Falcon notes that the industry has managed to curb the volatility in recent years. Better organised production, combined with a mild climate brought more stable volumes throughout the year, which in turn has helped stabilise demand for flowers, he says, adding that this has fostered more long-term relationships and helped airlines sustain capacity more evenly.
The traditional growing areas continue to dominate the market – notably Kenya in Africa, and Colombia and Ecuador in Latin America, but growers in some other countries are vying for a slice of the business.