New Europe green regulations tighten pinch for local farmers

A farmer sprays his crops in Mugunda Village in Kieni Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The European Commission on June 22 adopted proposals to restore damaged ecosystems and reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50 per cent by 2030.

The plan, referred to as bringing nature back across Europe, will involve ecosystems from agricultural land and seas to forests and urban environments.

The laws have new rules on chemical pesticides, which are expected to reduce the environmental footprint of the European Union's food system and protect the health and well-being of citizens and agricultural workers.

The commission says it does not want the outright ban of the use of chemical pesticides despite the fact that the proposed 50 per cent target would be legally binding for member states.

Kenya, which exports a large part of its products to the EU, will have to comply on the regulations on pesticides.

However, like many other African countries, it lies within the tropics and therefore cannot completely eliminate pests.

Winter in Europe makes it easier for pests to be eliminated due to the fact that they cannot survive in the cold season.

“We do not have an alternative, we will still keep using pesticides to control the pests and diseases in our crops since we cannot eliminate pests completely,” said Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya Chief Executive Hosea Machuki.

He said farmers now need to check the pesticides that have been approved by the Pest Control Products Board.

“Make sure you check the labels on the pesticides, they should have a crop-pest combination.”

Plans in the green deal include a mandatory nature restoration target for countries to repair 20 per cent of damaged ecosystems by 2030.

Director of Horticultural Crops Directorate Benjamin Tito said with the new regulations, Kenya will have no alternative but to comply in order to meet the needs of the EU, or else lose market share.

“Aligning with EU pesticide rules will help farmers and growers wanting to export to the EU, but could cause problems for subsistence farmers and smallholders who do not,” he said.

Kenya’s exports to the EU are largely agricultural commodities such as cut flowers, fruits and vegetables.

In recent years, crop production across East Africa has been plagued by locust invasions, prompting heavy use of pesticides.

“Pesticide manufacturers view their products as safe if used properly," Mr Tito said.

"However, product usage and handling as prescribed by the manufacturers are often not realistic in the settings in which pesticides are deployed.” Mr Machuki said the national government needs to engage the EU Commission regarding the green deal to work for the farmers in Kenya and across Africa.

“Many African countries are not going to comply with the regulations if matters in the green deal are not going to suit them,” he said.

Kenya is the world’s leading exporter of black tea, cut flowers and coffee, and agriculture accounts for 60 per cent of Kenyan export earnings.

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