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Emirates SkyCargo spreads love with Zambia’s flowers

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Emirates: flying Zambian roses to the world for Valentine's Day

Emirates: flying Zambian roses to the world for Valentine’s Day

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Nothing says I love you quite like a flower and Emirates plays a big part in transporting flowers from Zambia to loved ones across the world with the airlines SkyCargo business.

In 2016 Zambia produced close to 3,000 tonnes of roses and goldenrods that were flown by Emirates SkyCargo to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and other destinations. In 2017 Emirates SkyCargo flew 100,000 tonnes of fresh flowers on daily cargo flights to Amsterdam especially from major flower exporters like Kenya and Ecuador.
Flowers are also an important local industry in countries such as Kenya and Ecuador, where it is estimated that it means employment for 500,000 and 100,000 people respectively.
Cool chain facilities are essential to maintaining and extending the life and freshness of flowers during transit. Emirates SkyCargo’s hubs at Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central have extensive dedicated storage for temperature sensitive products including flowers and other perishables. Their innovative protective White Cover* solution helps keep cargo cool.

Where do the flowers come from?

One of the world’s most important flower growing markets is Kenya. Most flowers that are grown around the world are transported to Amsterdam where they have the world’s most important flower auction market, Aalsmeer. On an average day, the market auctions an approximate 20 million flower stems. This number goes up for Valentine’s Day. The global value of floriculture exports is about $20 billion (2015).

The Netherlands also grows large volumes of flowers. Once auctioned, flowers then get transported to their destination countries. End customers also source their flowers directly from growers and this is a growing trend.

In the run up to Valentine’s Day, the volumes of flowers being transported increases dramatically. Emirates SkyCargo operates additional freighter frequencies to cater to the demand. Other important dates when flowers are transported include Mothers’ day and Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Major flower exporting countries for Emirates SkyCargo
Kenya and Ecuador are our main markets. Other important flower exporting markets for Emirates SkyCargo are the Netherlands, Zambia, South Africa, India, Ethiopia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Kenya: Emirates SkyCargo contributes to the local economy by facilitating flower exports from Nairobi to the rest of the world. In 2016 we exported over 26,000 tonnes of flowers from Nairobi. The peak flower export season is from October to May here when close to 2,500 tonnes of flowers are exported every month. More than 95% of the flowers are flown to Amsterdam. The rest of the flowers go to Dubai and Australia.
Major flowers exported include roses, lilies, carnations and statice. The airline operates seven freighters a week out of Nairobi, although these is not exclusively for flowers. In the run up to Valentine’s Day in February 2016 it operated nine dedicated freighters from Nairobi to Amsterdam carrying 800 tonnes of flowers.

Ecuador: In 2016, Emirates SkyCargo exported close to 8,000 tonnes of flowers from Ecuador through Quito. Flowers are exported all through the year with peaks during Valentines, New Year, Mothers’ Day and All Saints Day. Emirates SkyCargo flies most of the flowers to Amsterdam and the rest to Dubai and Australia. The major flowers exported from Ecuador are roses, chrysanthemums, carnations and gypsophila. We fly three freighters a week to Quito.

Places Emirates SkyCargo flew flowers from in 2016 and continues to serve

Netherlands: around 1,000 tonnes of flowers in 2016 to various destinations in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Zambia: close to 3,000 tonnes of roses and goldenrods were flown to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and other destinations from here.

Ethiopia: about 500 tonnes exported, a big part of this is the hypericum flower which is flown to Japan.

Sri Lanka: about 500 tonnes of carnations and roses are flown to various destinations.

India: red roses from Bangalore to London, jasmine and rose garlands to the US from Chennai, flower bulbs to Amsterdam from Darjeeling through Kolkata, roses and gerbera from Mumbai to the US. Mumbai alone exported over 100 tonnes of flowers in 2016.

Vietnam: Around five tonnes of roses flown to Amsterdam every week.

New Zealand: Cymbidium, peony and hydrangea to various destinations, but in limited quantities.

Fun Facts

  • Approximate weight of one rose: 40 grams
  • Approximate number of roses that can fit into a freighter: close to two million
  • Emirates SkyCargo transported the equivalent of 20 million roses just from Nairobi in the run up to Valentine’s day last year. This was 800 tonnes in nine freighters.
Harvesting and Handling
Most flowers are handpicked and hand packed. Flowers are harvested early in the morning and packed in cold rooms. Packing boxes are also pre-cooled at times to ensure that the flowers do not bloom. The optimal temperature should be between 1-3 degrees Celsius and this must be maintained throughout the transport process.

*White Cover Solution
Emirates SkyCargo White Covers are used to protect a wide variety of perishable products including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, cut flowers, plants and meat and seafood. This significantly enhances quality and shelf life, allows perishables to respire normally while venting harmful gases such as ethylene and carbon dioxide. The covers keep the cold chain protection in place to world quality standards and reduces damage from extreme temperatures, solar radiation and pest infestation


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