By Antony Gitonga
Nairobi,Kenya:The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) has expressed concerns over the delay in signing the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA).
With the October 14 deadline approaching fast, the council noted that failure to sign the deal could spell doom for the country’s horticulture sector.
According to KFC chief executive officer Jane Ngige, the country stands to loose its duty free quota and free access in the European market.
However, Ngige is optimistic that the ongoing talks though slow would yield results and the agreement signed before the deadline.
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“We are keenly following the ongoing EPA negotiations and hope for a quick agreement as failure would spell doom for the country,” she said.
EPAs are trade deals being negotiated between the European Union’s 27 countries and 76 developing countries, mostly former British and French colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific, otherwise referred to as ACP.
It is a response to continuing criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreements offered by the EU are incompatible with WTO rules.
The deals are important, as they lay down the rules of trade between Europe and ACP countries over a long period of time and affect millions of people.
Kenya, as part of the East African Community, trades with the EU under Interim EPAs, but these have expired.
The contentious clauses that have delayed the current negotiations for more comprehensive EPAs are under provisions for good governance and tax, trade, environment and sustainable development, and obligations/consequences from Customs Union Agreements with the EU.
Ngige at the same time announced that they were working on the minimum standards for all flower exporters in country.
This, she said would see loopholes in the sector addressed and all players work from the same platform.
“The national minimum standards for all flower exporters are at an advanced stage and this will see players adhere to the set rules,” she said.
On the ongoing rains that have wrecked havoc in parts of the country, the executive officer noted that the floriculture sector had been affected.
She however, pointed to a few farms in Naivasha, which had been flooded as they were farming in the riparian land.
“Some farmers who have invaded the riparian land around Lake Naivasha have had their greenhouses flooded and flowers destroyed,” she said.
In the last couple of weeks, lake Naivasha burst its banks due to the ongoing rains flooding farms and some homes around the water body.
Environmentalists have expressed their concern over the structures and floodwater, which are washing chemicals back into the lake.