Kampala — A Dutch company is exploring prospects of introducing Entebbe-Amsterdam cargo flights as in May in response to an outcry by Ugandan horticultural exporters over limited cargo space.
A director of Anova Food BV, Ron Ruiter, said the viability of the project will have to be determined before its possible launch in May.
"We have to make sure we have the right amount of cargo to warrant this; we will need a lot of assistance from the exporters," Mr. Ruiter said.
Anova Food BV is also in the fish exporting business and exports fish from Entebbe three times a week.
The Anova director made the announcement last week at a meeting with horticultural exporters organised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).
The DC 10 aircraft which the company intends to use on the route has a capacity of 90 tonnes, although only 30 tonnes would initially be available to Ugandan exporters, according to the Anova official. If all goes according to plan, flights will originate from Nairobi six days a week.
According to statistics, about 40 tonnes of Ugandan fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers are left behind every week for lack of cargo space.=
However, the question yet to be resolved is whether Ugandan exporters will be able to sustain this service all year round.
"I know I can easily get 30 tonnes daily in December and January, but what about July and August?" Mr. Ruiter asked.
Besides the insufficient cargo space, current losses being experienced by exporters are attributed to the booming success of the industry.
So many fruits and vegetables are being produced, according to the horticultural advisor at the Investment in Developing Export Agriculture (IDEA) project of USAid, Steve New, that many are now rotting in the gardens for lack of buyers. USAid has stepped up efforts to find ways of getting the extra exports to Europe and the Middle East.
"We are discussing with other airlines the possibility of them bringing in additional air cargo, but most of them still insist that this may not be possible because of the high cost of fuel and handling services at Entebbe," Mr. New said.
Horticultural exports from Uganda have virtually lost out to Kenyan and Ghanaian exports because they are more expensive, and most European dealers are not willing to pay a price any higher than what they pay for the Kenyan exports.
Ugandan exporters insist they have to charge a higher price if they are to make a profit because freight charges from Entebbe are very high. Cargo carriers charge about $1.55 for each kilo of Ugandan cargo, while passenger planes charge $1.20. But Kenyan exporters sometimes pay as little as 65 US cents per kilo.
Kenyan horticultural products are now established in major supermarket chains in the United Kingdom, like Asda Stores, Safeway Stores, Tesco Stores, Kwik Save Company and Sainsburys, while Ugandan products are still struggling to find a niche in the market. It seems, therefore, that even if more cargo space is provided, the problems of the Ugandan horticultural exporters are not about to come to end.
Mr. New said something must be done about the high fuel and handling costs if Entebbe is to compete at all. "Apart from having very low air freight charges, Nairobi has a lot more facilities than Entebbe," Mr. New said.