Rwanda has introduced a weekly direct cargo flight to Europe with hopes to ease the transportation of agriculture exports and offset the trade deficit.
We are glad to announce that we launched new B747 widebody freighter operations with @MagmaCargo. The new aviation weekly services will facilitate agri-exports direct route (from Kigali International Airport to Liege Airport in Belgium). pic.twitter.com/TzSGMVSBzQ
— NAEB (@RwandAgriExport) October 5, 2019
The new cargo service will be operated by UK-based Magma Aviation, which specialises in air freights globally, the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) said in a tweet.
“We are glad to announce that we launched new B747 wide-body freighter operations with @MagmaCargo. The new aviation weekly services will facilitate agri-exports direct route (from Kigali International Airport to Liege Airport in Belgium),” NAEB said in a tweet.
According to NAEB, the cargo plane will operate every Friday, carrying 25 metric tonnes.
Emmanuel Harelimana, the Chief Finance Officer of Garden Fresh, a local company that exports fresh vegetables like green beans, sugar snaps and broccoli, believes the new cargo service will bring consistency.
“Previously, we have had issues of not having enough air space on RwandAir. Our products would sometimes be offloaded and occasionally get notified that they won’t be lifted. This is a problem,” he said. “If you sign a contract with a buyer out there to deliver products three times a week, if you don’t deliver, they will be disappointed. It will distract your market and the reputation of the country. The new service will bring consistency.”
Rwandan exporters also grapple with the high cost of transport and Harelimana doesn’t believe the new service will necessarily be cheaper.
However, he argues, the new cargo plane, which is a result of long-term discussions between exporters and the government, is a good development.
Rwanda’s exports are dominated by horticulture products (vegetables, flowers and fruits), which are mainly shipped to European markets.
As of June this year, 95.54 per cent of Rwanda’s flowers exports went to The Netherlands.
But local exporters have faced air space challenges that affect the transport of fresh produce. The new service would change that.
The development could also help ease the country’s high trade deficit.
Rwanda’s exports rose by 7.5 per cent to $577.8 million in the first half of 2019, driven by good performance of non-traditional exports and exports, according to the National Bank of Rwanda.
On the other hand, the Bank said in its quarterly report that imports grew by 18.2 per cent, increasing the trade deficit to $767.9 million in the first six months of this year up from $601.4 million in the same period last 2018.