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Kenya launches online system to track plant, seeds and grain imports

By Nicholas Waitathu | March 6th 2015

NAIROBI: The Government has launched an online system to screen plants, seeds and grains being imported into the country.

The new system - Plant Import and Quarantine Regulatory System (PIQRS) - would ensure the bulk of imported plant products are vetted at all the border entry points by experts.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei said any dealer intending to bring into the country plant material regardless of quantity or purpose must obtain permit from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).

"A plant import permit will be issued after careful appraisal of the risk involved in importing the intended plants or plant product," he said in a speech read on his behalf by Agriculture Secretary Ann Onyango during the launch of the system at a Nairobi hotel. Koskei observed that all imports of plants products pose some level of risk.

However, propagation material he added present higher risk, thus requires proper tracking and management for such imports is of critical importance. The agricultural sector is a major consumer of imported fruits, flowers, vegetable and propagation material which includes seeds for sowing. Most of these come through Mombasa port and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Kenya equally imports fruits from countries such as South Africa and Egypt.

"This is an innovative step towards modernization of agricultural import clearance process. Further, the new system will reduce turnaround time spent in processing plant import permits (PIP), provide accurate information on plant materials entering the country," he added.

He said the initiative will improve the current import regulatory system to facilitate safe, secure, and efficient importation of plants, plant products and regulated articles. Agriculture sector has been subjected to foreign distorted plants and planting product thus contributing to food insecurity.

"Importation of plants and plant products into any country poses huge plant health risks which if not properly regulated could have far reaching economic and food security implications. Over the years, where import regulatory systems have failed, economies have suffered crop losses and huge cost incurred in attempts to contain pest outbreaks or incursions."

In Kenya, example, such as the larger grain borer, also called "Osama" come to mind in relation to maize losses at the storage level," said Mr Koskei. In 2010, Kenya lost its avocado export market to South Africa following infection of the fruit by a foreign pest –Fruit Fly said to have originated from Sri Lanka in 2003.

South Africa imposed an indefinite ban in 2010 denying local farmers more than Sh120 million every year it used to earn out of avocado exports.

KEPHIS Acting Managing Director Esther Kimani said the system will ensure protection of plant resources, environment and ensure safe exchange of bio-germ plasm and enhanced trade facilitation.

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