In recent years, the cut flowers industry has become an increasingly important global export business for many African countries. To meet the demands of international flower imports into the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the industry is seeing an increased need for capacity on integrated transport and more environmentally friendly alternatives with lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Africa flower logistics exports are on the rise
Traditionally, the Netherlands has long dominated the global flower market. However, according to the International Association of Horticulture Producers, their market share has decreased from 50% to 48% in 2019 as countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia and Ecuador have managed to increase their presence in the cut flower trade. According to Africa Business Pages, in fact, Kenyan roses contribute to 40% of the European market presence.
From bloom to bouquet, in recent years the Netherlands has shifted its focus from flower production to flower trading, creating an opportunity for exporters from other parts of the world, including Africa. According to Logistics Update Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia “lead among other African nations like Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Uganda in flower production and flower exports in Africa with Kenya contributing a lion's share of 62% and Ethiopia at 24% in flower exports”. The news outlet states also that the cut flowers category has “grown in several African countries with Ethiopia, and East African nations like Kenya and Tanzania” with their flowers transported as cargo in passenger flights making up 40 % of the total freight transported by air.
Keeping flowers fresh with cold-chain logistics
Cut flowers have a limited vase life from farm to store but cold-chain logistics can preserve their freshness. In order to do so, they must be transported quickly within an unbroken cold chain that includes refrigeration across multiple facilities and vehicles. It is crucial that flowers arrive at their destination at optimal temperatures and atmospheric conditions in order to achieve their desired lifespan. This means that flowers must be transported in refrigerated vehicles from the packing facilities on the farms where they are cut. They must then be stored under refrigerated conditions for a minimum of four hours in hydration before being graded, treated, and packed into boxes for export. Packing is done in cold conditions and quickly loaded onto reefer transport for export. The entire process from picking to export packaging and loading is usually completed within 48 hours.
It is critical for both farmers and exporters to get flowers from farm to market while retaining maximum freshness through an uninterrupted cold chain with ideal atmospheric conditions. This requires having a logistics partner who can provide end-to-end reefer transport that not only allows for cold transportation but also gives precise control over conditions during transit.
Integrated cold chain logistics for end-to-end visibility
One key aspect of optimising market performance is having visibility across product supply chains. Flower farmers and exporters need to be able to gauge market demand at any time so they can capitalise on supply dips or demand spikes.
Having a single fully digitalised reefer shipping partner allows exporters better visibility during transit so any changes can be addressed quickly, resulting in fewer losses. Digital tracking solutions enable businesses to monitor temperature, carbon dioxide levels, and oxygen levels, regardless of container location, allowing remote access control over conditions within containers.
In conclusion, having an integrated reefer logistics partner can unlock savings by ensuring maximum freshness during transportation, regulation of peaks and troughs in production, and providing reliable weekly sailing schedules. Visibility ensures farmers and exporters are in control of the condition of their flowers on transit. There is also a massive benefit in being able to decarbonise supply chains by up to 80% when cut flowers are transported via ocean. With favourable weather conditions and readily available labour and knowledge capital, Africa is uniquely poised to play a larger role on the global stage of cut flower export.