Kenya’s bid to secure international markets for the mango fruit has started to take shape. This is after players launched an initiative to end fruit fly pests that saw the country locked out of European Union markets.
According to the Horticultural Crops Directorate, Kenya is losing over Sh50 billion annually as a result of damage caused to the fruit by pests.
The most affected is mango the mango, the second most common fruit after banana, with losses caused by the fruit fly estimated to be between 40 and 80 per cent, translating to between Sh5 billion and Sh10 billion every year, according to the crops directorate.
Statistics by the directorate indicate that mangoes are grown in over 49,000 hectares of land, producing about 780,000 tonnes of fruit valued at Sh12 billion. Mango production continues to grow in Kenya, but farmers face the challenge of fetching good prices in the European and American markets because of increased infestation of fruit flies that burrow into the fruits.
Kenya imposed a self-ban on mangoes to Europe and America after several interceptions of mango consignments by the EU authorities between 2010 and 2014.
On Friday, players met at a hotel in Nairobi where they launched a fruit fly free zone campaign dubbed “Komesha fruit fly” where they agreed to create awareness among farmers and jointly work to eliminate the menace.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) said the pest had been a blow to farmers, and a complete eradication was needed to convince the international market that Kenya has met the required standards.
“The purpose of the campaign is to bring farmers and other stakeholders on board so that we can get rid of the pest and to convince the international market that we have met the standards,” said Dr Esther Kimani, the Kephis managing director.
Fetch good income
She said the players will sensitise the farmers on the losses that the pest causes and educate them on the cost effective methods of addressing the issue. “We have technologies that farmers can use to eliminate the pests and protect their crops from losses,” she added.
Kimani said once Kenya has been declared fruit fly free zone, doors to international markets will open and farmers will fetch good income from the exportation of the fruits.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana said the campaign was also targeting the local market since there were industries processing mangoes that also required quality fruits.
“Our industry in Makueni selects the best fruits and when some fruits are rejected, the farmers record losses. Therefore, it is not only about the international market but we also need our industries to process quality fruits and locals to eat pest-free fruits,” said Prof Kibwana.
He said Makueni County, which is the leading county in mango production followed by Kitui and Machakos, was experiencing a loss of up to Sh4 billion a year due to the damage by the fruit fly.