Kenyan mangoes to the Middle East face stiff competition from Egyptian products due to the low cost of shipping from Cairo to Dubai and Qatar compared to the high cost incurred by Kenyan exporters.
Egypt’s proximity to Middle Eastern countries, where Kenya is currently exporting most of its mangoes, enjoys a low cost of exporting the product with one kilo in Sh32 per ship compared to a Kenyan exporter who has to part with Sh108 for the same amount.
Egypt has the advantage of the sea, which lowers the cost compared to Kenya, which has to export by air so that the fruits arrive while they are still fresh.
“The shipping cost is quite expensive and, for the Middle East by air, we are paying a dollar per kilo, unlike Egypt which spends $ 30 cents on exports by sea and this makes our products expensive,” said Japheth. Mbandi, technical manager of KEITs exporters, a local export company.
Mango exports from Kenya to Mombasa by sea take at least eight days to arrive, making shipping through Mombasa port difficult due to the long duration. Almost 90 percent of Kenya’s fruits are exported by air, making them more expensive in the Middle East.
Mbandi said that the cost of shipping to Europe would be even higher by air and can range from $ 1 to $ 2 a kilo, but prices can be lower, if the mangoes can be exported by sea with a kilogram exported to go to Sh80.
However, he said that in order to reach the European market by sea, Kenya has to switch to varieties that have a longer shelf life compared to what most farmers are planting at the moment.
“To market in Europe by sea, we have to change our varieties to Keit and Kent, which can withstand long days as we can in Europe for 28 days and the Middle East for 10 days, but the shelf life of the apple mango, which is commonly grown by farmers in Kenya is short, between 10 and 14 days. A variety like Kent can last up to 35 days, ”he said.
Kenya is expected to resume the European mango market in September. The emergence of the fruit fly in Kenya led to numerous shipments by the EU authority between 2010 and 2014. As a result, Kenya imposed a temporary ban on self-export to protect the market and institute acceptable pest management measures.
Stakeholders argue that the European market would be a huge boost for them, given that Europe’s profits are 20 percent more than those they make from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries.
The country is among the main exporters of fresh produce to the world market and Europe accounts for the majority of total exports.
Kenya’s main exports include flowers, where the country supplies more than 60 percent of roses to the European market.