The horticultural sector has continued to thrive in the Covid-19 pandemic period, with earnings for the first eight months of the year increasing by Sh6 billion.
Despite the pandemic’s aftershocks that have distorted global markets, the Directorate of Horticulture says Kenya’s horticultural exports between January and August reached Sh103 billion.
Head of Directorate Benjamin Tito said the sector rebounded after a drop recorded in the first quarter of the year due to Covid-19.
“It is encouraging that the sector has shrugged off the aftershocks of Covid-19. Our earnings have risen to Sh103 billion in the first eight months of 2020 compared to Sh97 billion earned during the same period last year,” he said.
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He attributed the rebound to growing demand and exports in locally grown avocados and vegetables, which continued to thrive through marine vessels even after the shutdown of international airspaces.
“In the first half of the year, we exported 58,400 tonnes of avocado to 42 countries which earned us Sh8 billion. This was facilitated through marine vessels as it wasn’t possible through air,” he said.
The revenues continued to grow due to high demand and good prices for the products despite a drop in the volumes of exports resulting to limitations in the transport sector.
“We exported 211 million kilos of horticultural produce, a drop from 230 million kilos sold during the same period in 2019. Many orders were cancelled due to restrictions especially in Europe,” he said.
He exuded confidence that the sector will be a trailblazer in the country’s economic recovery, since the country has retained its markets as well as made inroads in new markets.
“Our horticultural exports are likely to surpass Sh230 billion by the end of December. Markets that had been shut Benjamin Tito due to the pandemic have reopened. We have captured new international markets which will give the sector a shot in the arm,” he said.
The resumption of international flights to importing countries is expected to offer a lifeline to thousands of workers in the sector who were laid off during the slump.
He expressed concerns over the increased notifications on the presence of pests and chemical residues that threaten Kenya’s share in the export market.
“It appears some farms became negligent at the height of the pandemic. We received 17 notifications on the presence of harmful pests and pesticide residues in our exports, up from four notifications recorded in March. Most of them were on rose flowers and capsicum,” he said.
The directorate has set up a team to ensure growers adhere to guidelines. Netherlands topped the list of Kenyan avocado importers, having bought 16.3 million kilos, followed by Spain at 7.5 million kilos, UAE 5.8 million kilos and Russia at 5.4 million kilos.