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07 november 2016

Transition from day trade to futures

KENYA – The Union of wholesalers in flower nursery products (Vereniging van Groothandelaren in Bloemkwekerijprodukten; VGB) is a highly esteemed player, with regard to doing business in and with Kenya. Anton Bril realises that, like no one else. VGB's focus lies with the representation of interests and providing a network and platform to its members. Besides that, VGB is an antenna for developments and innovations in the sector. VGB receives international acclaim for GreenCHAINge.

Joep Derksen

The VGB is acting as lobbyist on an international scale. That is why this organisation is member of the Union Fleurs, for which it also supplies the chairperson and a board member. Union Fleurs is located in Brussels. In what way was VGB active, with regard to Kenya? 'Last Summer, Union Fleurs organised a special assembly of members in Nairobi, at which many import matters were discussed. These import matters are important to the Netherlands.'

As for GreenCHAINge, VGB has been cooperating with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research for ten years already. This cooperation once started to stimulate export of tulips and daffodils to New York and Miami by boat. Nowadays thirty containers are shipped that direction every week, amongst others from the company Holex. Because of this success, GreenCHAINge was expanded with the import of Protea, delicate forestry articles from South Africa and carnation import from Columbia.

Currently the VGB is busy with setting up a regular container transport network from Kenya, in cooperation with amongst others Intergreen, Hilverda de Boer, FleuraMetz and Royal FloraHolland. Transporting by ship takes 28 days and for products such as roses and carnation it is absolutely essential that the entire refrigeration chain functions to optimum effect. Bril is a staunch supporter for the further improvement of the refrigeration chain management. He states: 'At this moment the refrigeration chain is for roses not yet stable and not yet professional enough. That is, these flowers need continuous cooling (at 0.5 degrees, JD); starting from the nursery, through transport, in the consolidation centre and from the reefer in the harbour to the boat. In the hinterland the refrigeration chain is still in full development; by no means all local transport companies are able to transport their products in a refrigerated environment.' Transporting products by ship can lead to a 25% decrease in costs. Bril sees positive developments: 'In Bremen I visited Agro Merchants Group, which invests millions of Euros in setting up a consolidation centre. Kenya needs an investor, who sets up a solid refrigeration chain management. In this way the transport system will be equipped for sea freight starting from the nursery all the way up to the harbour in Mombassa.'

Nowadays ten breeders and six traders have joined forces in Kenya. Bril explains: 'Together they work as a team. They prepare cargo’s for transport together and conclude agreements. This happens in cooperation with the VGB and the auction. The VGB has developed a standardized packaging for optimum use in the reefer container. It has been agreed upon that everybody uses that particular packaging. These are all building blocks we managed to realize commonly collectively. It is pretty unique and we are proud of it.'

There's still a long way to go, but Bril has high expectations of the developments of sea freight from Kenya. 'Nowadays there are not so many air freight is coming out of Columbia. It is all being brought in by ship, because it is so much cheaper. 80% of world trade is shipped to its final destination. Hundreds of thousands of containers with vegetables and fruit are being transported to the Netherlands. But, it is necessary for all of us to have patience, yet also the vision to step away from the day trade. And move more towards futures and planning. When you use sea freight, you need to be able to plan ahead for four weeks.'