Every year, millions of roses are gifted worldwide on Valentine’s Day resulting in a spike in demand for flowers in early February.
To meet this requirement, major flower producing nations around the world including Kenya and Ecuador harvest and air-freight additional quantities of roses to important global centres of flower distribution such as the Aalsmeer market in the Netherlands and directly to customers around the world.
Emirates SkyCargo, the freight division of Emirates, operates daily scheduled freighter flights to Nairobi and four weekly freighters to Quito around the year to uplift flowers that are then flown to destinations across its network.
However, in order to meet the additional demand for transporting flowers during this season, Emirates SkyCargo will be operating a total of nine freighter flights dedicated for flowers over and above scheduled operations. With each of Emirates SkyCargo’s Boeing 777 freighter aircraft being capable of transporting up to 100 tonnes of cargo, this translates into the carrier flying close to 900 tonnes of roses over and above the around 4000 tonnes transported monthly.
Emirates SkyCargo has also notched a number of historic firsts this year. The air cargo carrier operated its first direct freighter flight carrying flowers from Nairobi directly to Sydney and from Quito directly to Los Angeles. This is in keeping with the trend where flower farms supply directly to end customers in global markets in addition to supplying to the flower auction houses.
Keeping flowers fresh
The journey of flower exports begins on a farm where they are harvested by hand. The freshly harvested flowers are then sorted, arranged in bouquets and hand packed into boxes, which are then loaded on the aircraft. In order to ensure maximum freshness and shelf life, the flowers are maintained between 2 and 5 degrees centigrade.
Emirates SkyCargo has designed a specialised three-tiered portfolio of solutions - Emirates Fresh, Emirates Fresh Active and Emirates Fresh Breathe - for air-freighting different kinds of perishable cargo including food items and flowers. Emirates Fresh Breathe provides ventilated cool chain solutions for fresh cut flowers.
Over 100,000 people in Ecuador and an estimated 500,000 people in Kenya depend on the floriculture industry for their income and livelihoods. By helping exporters of flowers and other perishables reach customers in global markets, Emirates SkyCargo helps make an important economic contribution to the local economies.
In 2018, Emirates SkyCargo transported over 50,000 tonnes of flowers across the world. A majority of the flowers, over 27,000 tonnes, originated in Kenya. This is estimated to be around 15% of the overall flower exports from the nation. In January 2019, the carrier uplifted over 2,200 tonnes of flowers from Nairobi. During the same time, Emirates SkyCargo flew over 1,200 tonnes of flowers from Ecuador to Amsterdam.
Emirates SkyCargo also transports flowers in the belly hold of its passenger aircraft from other markets such as India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.
Emirates SkyCargo operates a modern all wide body fleet of over 270 aircraft. Emirates SkyCargo’s fleet of Boeing 777 and Boeing 747 aircraft offer a cargo capacity of over 100 tonnes per flight. In 2018, the air cargo carrier moved closed to 2.6 million tonnes of cargo.