The business community has welcomed the entry of Emirate airlines, which will operate direct cargo flights between Kigali and Dubai this comesas government pledges to coordinate famers in a bid to sustain cargo volumes.
An Emirates airlines Boeing 747 cargo plane with a capacity of 100 tonnes commenced its operations in Rwanda, on Wednesday, last week.
“We expect the carrier to trim cargo flight costs to below €2 per kilo to boost horticulture exports,” said Donatille Nibagwire, an entrepreneur exporting flowers and sweet bananas to Europe, Belgium and France. She says that she will diversify her market into Dubai.
Traders, particularly those dealing in perishable goods have time and again complained about the absence of direct cargo flights to the Middle East, saying that it accounts for the high cargo transport costs.
Studies suggest that cargo flight charges in Rwanda are twice higher than those in other East African Community countries such as Kenya. Some exporters transport their products to Uganda in a bid to access direct flights.
SN Brussels and Kenya Airways which do not have specific commercial cargo planes have two to three tonnes of cargo space depending on the number of passengers and charge about €2 per kilo.
The Chairman of Rwanda Private Sector Federation, Faustin Mbundu, said the cargo aircraft will boost exports because exporters have been avoiding big orders when uncertain of transport.
“The cargo plane is timely when crop intensification programme is yielding the results of improved and increased produce, our obligation now is to look for channels linking producers to exporters,” he pledged.
Last month, a group of Rwandan farmers attended a horticultural exhibition in Dubai to share experiences and exchange contacts for further collaboration.
“They were interested in our products and it wouldn’t be difficult to explore the market if we utilise this chance of direct flights,” Nibagwire said.
Ndambe Nzaramba, Deputy Director General in charge of Export Operations and Market Development said government would soon create awareness among stakeholders to consolidate their cargo volumes.
“We intend to coordinate and organise farmers train them in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), to sustain cargo volumes and link them with processors and exporters,” Ndambe said.
Some of the areas they target to train them include quality management system, proper storage mechanisms, and hygiene requirements during and after harvesting of fresh products, record keeping and fertiliser usage.
“There is a big market in Dubai that is not so stringent about standards if you ensure compliance with the basic international standards,” Ndambe emphasised. He is optimistic that prices will go down especially once exports and frequency are stable.
Early this year, statistics indicated that the number flights to Kigali increased from 60 in 2009 to 100 flights last year with flights between Kigali and Europe rising to nine from three flights per week following a rebound in economic activity.