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Ash Cloud Damages African Export Industry- UPDATED

Ash cloud over Europe

The continued disruption caused by volcanic ash clouds across European airspace could have irreversible effects on African economies dependant on exporting goods to Europe.

The cancellation of flights to and from Europe is costing the Kenyan economy more than £2.5 million a day.

Hardest hit has been the horticulture industry, losing an average of £1.9million.

Kenya has thrown away 10 million flowers – mostly roses – since the volcano eruption. Asparagus, broccoli and green beans meant for European dinner tables are being fed to Kenyan cattle because storage facilities are filled to capacity. The horticulture industry is Kenya’s top foreign exchange earner, making £600 million last year. Kenya exports 1,000 tons a day of produce and flowers – including roses, carnations and lilies, said Philip Mbithi, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya.

National airline Kenya Airways has also lost nearly £700,000 for every day it is forced to cancel flights to Europe. According to the Kenyan Daily Nation Kenya Airways has lost over £2.5 million over the past week when it has cancelled flights to Europe.

The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya chief executive officer Stephen Mbithi said: “On average, we ship some 1,000 tonnes worth £1.9 million per day. We have handled drought, El Niño and the post-election violence, but we have not seen anything like this,”said Mr Mbith.

He described the situation as “disastrous” and said it is likely to substantially reverse the gains the sector has made over the past two decades, especially with the small-scale farmers. Loss of tourism has also impacted upon hoteliers in the African nation with many reporting losses running into thousands of pounds.

Aviation experts fear that the ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano could damage aircraft engines.

A small number of flights have been operating recently after private airline test flights were carried out, but a second volcanic ash cloud in Iceland has stopped any chance of a full recovery.

Airspace in most of the UK remains closed until at least 0100 BST on Wednesday, but curbs have been eased in some northern parts of the UK.

UPDATE: After six days of disruption, airlines were given the all clear on Tuesday evening to begin a phased return to normal flight schedules following a decision by the  Civil Aviation Authority and a reassessment of the risk to aircraft.

Dominic Bascombe

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