How the Iceland Volcano Impacted the Flower Industry

It will be awhile before the total loss has been calculated due to the volcanic ash cloud that has plagued a great part of Europe. Airlines, businesses, food industry, and even the flower industry has been affected. The grand total could conceivably be in the millions, and for Kenya, it already is. Kenya’s economy relies heavily on the flower and vegetable industry, which was pretty much put on hold because of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland. The flower industry in Kenya which supplies over 1,000 tons of flowers every day to Europe, supplies Europe with 1/3rd of their flowers. Roses, carnations, as well as vegetables like beans and snap peas are shipped for overnight delivery.  Horticulture brought over $924 million dollars into Kenya last year alone, and employs thousands of workers. With the grounding of planes due to the ash clouds that have drifted across the globe, Kenya is losing $3 million a day, no small loss to any country.

Flowers and vegetables are two commodities that cannot sit and wait for a flight. Their useful life window is small, and products that have been sitting on the runway, or in warehouses have been relegated to the compost pile. Farmers are destroying products on their farms, rather than go to the trouble of taking them to be shipped, even as sellers are frantically trying to find alternative routes through Spain, via trucks, to get their products across the continent. Florists and supermarkets rely on products sent overnight from Kenya, and the farmers in this African country depend on this market for their livelihood. Unfortunately, unlike manufactured products that may be stored and warehoused, flowers and vegetables are ready when they are ready, and must be used immediately.

For the Dutch, the problem is not only that flower traders cannot get their blooms across the Atlantic to waiting stores, but that the crisis couldn’t come at a worse time. Spring in Holland is the busiest time of the year, and the height of their growing season, when spring flowering tulips and other bulb flowers, their specialty, are exported. Israel’s flower industry also suffered, and millions of flowers were destroyed when they could not be shipped. Attempts to truck the flowers to areas where they could be shipped to European markets failed.

The age of airfreight and overnight shipping has been a tremendous benefit to people everywhere, however, no one that depends on this service took into consideration the obstacles that nature could through into their business until now.