BRU Powers Flowers …

… together with other temperature critical products. To become better known by farmers and their forwarders as the address of choice for air freighting these commodities the cargo managers of Brussels Airport decided to organize road shows to present their hub. Last week, Kenya’s capital Nairobi stood on BRU Cargo’s event schedule.

Kenyan floriculturists and their forwarding agents showed great interest in BRU Cargo’s presentation  /  source: Brussels Airport
Kenyan floriculturists and their forwarding agents showed great interest in BRU Cargo’s presentation / source: Brussels Airport

Brussels International called and almost all came! – such as the Kenyan Flower Council, the African State’s Export and Horticultural Promotion Council, members of the local forwarding organization, airline managers, representatives from enterprises engaged in this particular field of business, and some officials from the government. What they were told was worth reflecting deeper upon. After all it’s the agricultural sector that still dominates Kenya’s GDP, with cut flowers accounting for 13 percent of exports. Most of the horticultural produce is traditionally flown to Amsterdam Schiphol and auctioned off in the nearby Aalsmeer florist market, where most European wholesalers traditionally order their stocks. 

Demonstrating that there are alternatives to these well-trodden paths, at least to a certain degree, was the aim of BRU Cargo’s Nairobi mission. “Actually, Brussels Airport doesn’t have the local contacts, so that’s why we went to Nairobi to present our range of services in cargo as alternative to other European destinations that are since long standing on the route map of most Kenyan producers and agents,” explained BRU’s Account Manager Nathan De Valck the underlying purpose of this journey.

Steven Polmans
Steven Polmans

Fast transit times have become a usp
In fact there are good chances that this plan comes to fruition since the arguments speak for themselves.

With Adelantex and the Belgian arm of Kuehne and Nagel there are two different specialists on site at BRU Airport offering a wide range of dedicated services for perishable products. Their individual warehouses are located right next to the tarmac, enabling fast transit times from aircraft to the handling area. “The first trucks loaded with flowers, vegetables and other perishables leave the airport only 60 minutes after the flight has arrived. The last consignments two hours after, at the latest,” assures BRU’s Head of Cargo Steven Polmans.

According to data on hand, Kenyan exports departing Nairobi at 10 p.m. arrive at Aalsmeer exactly at noon the next day if flown via Brussels.

“These fast transit times which speak for themselves as an important aspect when we talk about product quality what hardly anybody knew that we welcomed at our Nairobi event,” states Steven. Now however, the Kenyan farmers and forwarders got the message.

Nathan de Valck
Nathan de Valck

At BRU airlines pay less
There are other aspects worth mentioning that determine the fast processing of flowers and other perishables at BRU.  For instance, the phytosanitary checks are conducted all around the clock on seven days a week, whereas in Amsterdam there are some closing times. The inspection’s costs are lower in BRU, so is the fuel price for Jet A-1 kerosene. And landing a 747-400F at BRU costs only 1,350 euros, considerably cheaper than AMS or any other airport in the vicinity.
There are even more points on this list that speak for BRU when it comes to processing perishables and particularly flowers.

“What we increasingly see is a move away from centralized supply chains and the decentralizing of the flower biz,” Nathan notes. This is pushed forward by his division by offering the market alternative and fast to realize distribution solutions. In practice this means that goods are commissioned right at the airport from where they are then trucked directly to retailers. This ‘Fast to Market’ concept is supported by BRU Cargo but implemented practically by Adelantex and Kuehne & Nagel. “Before, the shipments were usually brought to intermediate storage facilities first from where they were then distributed to the local supermarkets or malls,” says Steven. These stop-offs had cost time and money.

Freighters on the horizon
BRU Cargo is also focusing on another field – additional flights from Nairobi to the Belgian capital. “Brussels Airlines just announced upping their passenger flights from three to five per week starting mid-April, which puts more lower deck capacity on this route,” states Nathan. And Steven is even crafting more ambitious plans to serve this sector with freighter aircraft. “Currently we are talking to several cargo airlines to put their main deck capacity on this route.” States BRU’s Head of Cargo: “Actually, there are three cargo carriers we are negotiating with each one of them having expressed considerable interest in linking NBO and BRU.”

Heiner Siegmund