One little family in the Garden of Eden

Blooming success – a visit to Kenya

The approach into Nairobi is breathtaking. After flying for several hours over Libya and Sudan’s sparse, bleak desert landscape, the land below suddenly becomes green and fertile again – Kenya’s vast countryside stretches out thousands of metres below the cockpit. And on the horizon, the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro rises above the clouds.

Kenya is considered Africa’s Garden of Eden. It boasts abundant fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee and flowers, especially roses. Within a few years, the country has emerged as the world’s largest exporter of flowers. Two-thirds of all of the roses sold in Germany alone come from Kenya. The very favourable climate means that good crop yields can be harvested all year round. This long-term stable production of perishable goods has also proven lucrative for the air freight industry. After all, fast and reliable logistics solutions are needed to ensure that the cargo can be transported quickly, while still fresh, to all corners of the world. Therefore, a Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F flies five times a week to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi – the most important Perishable hub in Africa.

“The main focus is definitely on the export of agricultural goods”, explained Ivo Seehann, General Manager Eastern Africa. Between 1,000 and 1,300 tonnes of cargo is being transported by Lufthansa Cargo from Nairobi each month – almost half of that are flowers. Their journey often begins 100 kilometres north-west, on the banks of Lake Naivasha, home to countless flower farms. The 20 greenhouses of the Ol Njorowa Rose Farm located right on the South Lake Road glisten in the sunlight. More than 60,000 rose trees of numerous varieties in colour, scent and size bloom in each one. Some 400 employees work to maintain and harvest them. Three times a day, 365 days a year, the precious flowers are cut, sorted by colour, bundled into bouquets and delivered Nairobi airport – 130,000 rose boxes on average per year.

Twelve Lufthansa Cargo employees look after the delicate cargo at the airport. “We have a highly experienced team”, emphasised Ivo Seehann. “Many colleagues have been at Lufthansa Cargo for more than 15 years and we’re almost like a little family. Everybody works hand in hand and is eager to face the daily challenges.”

And there are more than enough of those – electricity outages, a capped Internet connection and broken down trucks are not a rarity. “Kenya needs to focus on developping the infrastructure in the near future”, emphasised Ivo Seehann. Improvisation and fast solutions are required for all of these things. However, the ban on night flights in Frankfurt and resulting in unfavourable arrival and departure times have made business for Lufthansa Cargo in Nairobi more difficult. This has delighted competitors, who are not to be underestimated in Nairobi. Particularly the Middle Eastern carriers have grown very strong. But Lufthansa Cargo is still doing well: “We have built up an excellent reputation here”, underlined the General Manager. “Lufthansa Cargo is perceived as a company with the typical German virtues of punctuality, reliability and orderliness. Our customer service in Sales and Handling is outstanding.”

Ivo Seehann is optimistic about the future. He sees particular potential in the import business from Frankfurt. Nairobi is a classic stopover on the route to South Africa, he explains, being just three hours from Johannesburg. Therefore, the capacities on the southbound flights are restricted. However, with the discovery of large oil and gas deposits in Eastern Africa, a new import market for machine parts is opening up.

In respect of the Kenyan export market, he forecasts that “perishable goods will continue to be big”. The rose business in particular is very stable. “Global markets are constantly demanding new varieties – especially with the Fairtrade label”, he explained. So there is no sign yet of the Garden of Eden wilting away.