Valentine’s Day roses won’t come cheap after Kenya capacity crunch

If you haven’t yet picked up the traditional dozen roses for your significant other this Valentine’s Day, it isn’t too late – but be prepared to pay a premium over even the typical seasonal increase, after an airfreight capacity shortage nearly stranded the blooms in Kenya.

As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, the increase in global economic performance over the past year has led carriers to divert their aircraft to more profitable routes in Europe, Asia and the United States. While the trade increases have been a boon to carriers, reduced flights into Africa have left Kenya – the fourth-largest country in the world for cut flower exports by volume, and third largest in rose exports – scrambling to export a product with a short window of value.

Many carriers are doing their best to take advantage of the premium flowers command in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, including Cargolux, which added 1,200 tonnes of capacity to its flights from Nairobi, Quito and Bogota. UPS likewise expects to ship more than 8 million pounds of flowers to U.S. destinations.

However, the Journal reports that weekly flower volumes handled by Swiss forwarder Panalpina alone soared to 2,200 tons late in January, up from a more-typical 1,500 tons per week, and minimal demand for imports into Kenya contributes to difficulty making routes from Africa as profitable as those into other regions. With the shortage of available capacity, Panalpina had to charter more than 20 planes. The cost of flying roses to Europe subsequently increased to nearly twice usual rates at around US$2.90, while costs for longer routes rose to almost $6 per kilogram.

Those interested in learning more about perishables supply chains are invited to join us in Shanghai at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong 23-25 April for Cargo Facts Asia. To check out this year’s agenda, or to register, visit

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