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Trade lobby warns horticulture sector under threat over new EU rules

BUSINESS
By Antony Gitonga | May 25th 2015

The country’s horticulture sector stands to lose more than Sh60 billion this financial year as a result of the European Union’s (EU) stringent import regulations.

According to the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), the new rules, which address chemical residue levels in Kenyan crops, have adversely affected the industry.

The association is now calling for farmers to be taken through training to address emerging issues around quality so the country’s produce is not locked out of the international market.

According to FPEAK’s technical manager Francis Wario, Kenya’s fresh produce is facing resistance in the EU market over technical concerns, including food safety, pests, quarantine and growing environmental pollution.

“The market is concerned about the maximum residual levels (mls) in fresh produce and there is need to engage farmers on the standards required and the chemicals to use,” he said.

Mr Wario noted that the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) has begun addressing the issue of standards, but there is more that needs to be done. Already, he said, the country’s French beans, snow peas and flowers are feeling the effects of the strict rules.

To address the challenges, Wario said there is need to address production systems and “be more keen on policing, enforcement of the law, traceability and making sure farmers have effective information.”

Capsicum ban?

Wario was speaking during a workshop for agronomists and fresh produce exporters organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and FPEAK.

The meeting was held on the back of reports that Kenya’s capsicum (pilipili hoho) exports to the EU could be banned, following the emergence of a new and deadly pest that has wreaked havoc on the crop in parts of the country.

Farmers in capsicum-growing areas of Central Kenya, Naivasha, Athi River, Kitengela and Isinya have been put on high alert after an outbreak of the False Codling Moth.

A pesticide has yet to be identified to deal with the threat, which has already seen capsicum produce from Uganda banned from the EU market. The moth has shifted from citrus to capsicum produce, and there are fears it could spread to roses.

“The moth is rated among the five major pests affecting trade in Kenya, and its emergence means an increase in inspection frequency on Kenyan fresh produce,” said Samuel Kagumba, a sanitary and phytosanitary consultant.

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