Pakistan overtakes Uganda as top Kenyan goods buyer

Saturday July 11 2020
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A cargo ship. Pakistan overtook Uganda to become the biggest buyer of Kenyan goods in the first five months of 2020. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Pakistan overtook Uganda to become the biggest buyer of Kenyan goods in the first five months of the year after supplies to Kampala were largely slowed by coronavirus-induced delays at the border.

Earnings from exports to Pakistan, predominantly tea, bumped 19.37 percent to Ksh24.13 billion ($225 million), pushing the world's fifth most populous country back to the summit of top importers of Kenyan products for the first time since 2017, official data shows.

The data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows supplies to the land-locked Uganda, Kenya’s largest overall trading partner, dropped 5.65 percent to Ksh20.22 billion ($189 million), largely hurt by delays in April and May due to a requirement for truckers to have Covid-free certificates.

That slowed delivery of goods – including vegetable oils, fuel, iron and steel as well as paper and paperboard– to Kampala, pushing the country down to third biggest buyer of Kenya’s after being leapfrogged by the United Kingdom (UK).

Revenue from exports to the UK, the former Kenya’s colonial master, grew at the fastest pace of 30.06 percent to Ksh21.49 billion ($200 million) on increased demand for fresh farm produce such as fruits, cut flowers and vegetables.

Kenya Flower Council, the lobby for large-scale flower farms, said demand for Kenyan fresh produce in Europe and other key destinations has been rising since April at about 30 percent of targeted sales to current levels of nearly 75 percent.


Delivery has, however, been hurt by erratic freight services with most airlines prioritising medical supplies in the fight against contagious Covid-19, KFC chief executive Clement Tulezi said on phone.

“The biggest challenge we have at the moment is freight. It is only the UK which has remained open for the longest even when we were in the heat of Covid shocks two months ago,” said Mr Tulezi.

“Our hope is that as Europe and other markets start to open, and increased demand and less supplies comes in, we should be able to attract more freighters into Nairobi.”

Overall, Kenya’s exports rose 6.73 percent (or Ksh16.98 billion, $158 million) in the January-May 2020 period to Ksh269.13 billion ($2.5 billion) spurred by increased sale of tea and horticultural products.

Tea earnings jumped 18.90 percent to Ksh58.62 billion ($548 million), cut flowers by 4.23 percent to Ksh51.14 billion ($478 million), while income from sale of fruits surged 78.91 percent to Ksh11.09 billion ($104 million).