Jomo Kenyatta International Airport could increase its revenue from cargo transport if it builds a holding facility to facilitate export of live domestic animals.
According to Sanjeev Gadhia, chief executive at regional logistics firm Astral Aviation, countries like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have a huge demand for live animals from East Africa, but the region cannot meet it due to lack of a quarantine facility at JKIA.
"We have a number of clients asking for live animals, either to fatten them and slaughter them later, or those already slaughtered under strict Islamic regulations of halaal," Mr Gadhia told The EastAfrican.
According to the Export Promotion Council, East Africa has one of the fastest growing livestock sectors in Africa and has a sizeable export trade of live goats, camels and cows to the Middle East by sea.
It is, however, faster and safer to transport live animals by air considering a journey by sea takes between seven and 12 days, depending on the weather and conditions at sea.
Kenya also exports live animals to Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia and Zambia, mainly for breeding purposes. Exports to the Middle East are normally for slaughter with the peak season being during religious ceremonies and the annual Haj.
Mr Gadhia further said the airport is currently operating at 25 per cent capacity, handling 250,000 tonnes of cargo.
He noted that perishable goods exports, mainly horticultural products, had been rising steadily over the years by eight per cent annually, whereas exports by sea had been dropping.
Official data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show that vegetable exports stood at Ksh19.6 billion ($189 million) up from Ksh16.7 billion ($161 million) in the previous year.
JKIA serves 25 cargo airlines, making it one of the cargo hubs of Africa.
According to the Kenya Airports Authority, JKIA can accommodate eight wide bodied aircraft at any one time and has five sheds equipped with cold rooms for goods in transit.
The airport does have an animal holding station for pets such as dogs and cats, where they are kept for feeding, cleaning and receiving medical tests being flown out of or allowed into the country.