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Beware of poisoning in fresh produce: Experts

By Antony Gitonga | June 8th 2015

Agronomists and experts are warning that Kenyans could be eating their way to death due to an increase in maximum residual levels (mls) in fresh produce.

They attributed this to lack of regulations, easy accessibility to pesticides and lack of an enforcement unit for the rising cases of quacks acting as agronomists.

The experts said ignorance by farmers has also contributed to the problem, which has left scores of Kenyans seeking treatment for incurable diseases.

This emerged during a sanitary and phyto-sanitary workshop for agronomists and fresh produce exporters organised by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK).

According to Gideon Aliero from the East Africa Growers Association (EAGA), the number of quacks in the professional is worrying. Mr Aliero noted that some quacks were misleading farmers to use chemicals irregularly as well as giving them poor instructions, regretting that residual was ending up with consumers.

Aliero said there was need for agronomists to form an umbrella body to address their challenges and deal with the rising number of quacks.

"Some farmers with the help of quacks are buying the wrong types of chemicals and applying them at the wrong time, leading to medical complication for consumers," he said.

The sentiments were echoed by Solomon June, an agronomist from Kisumu, who blamed the issue of high maximum residual levels in fresh produce to the quacks.

Mr June revisited the recent tomato disease identified as Tuta absoluta which wreaked havoc in parts of the country. "Many farmers opted to use all manner of pesticides and insecticides following the advice of quacks to try and address the problem but this did not work," he said.

Earlier, FPEAK Technical  Manager Francis Wario said Kenya's fresh produce was facing a resistant in the European Union market due to technical reasons like food safety and pests.

He noted that there was need to urgently train farmers on how to deal with emerging pests and the type of chemicals to use.

"The market is concerned about the mls in fresh produce and there is need to engage farmers on these standards," he said.

Already, Kenya's capsicum produce to EU faces ban following the emergence of a new and deadly pest that has wrecked havoc in parts of the country. Farmers in pepper growing areas of Central Kenya, Naivasha, Athi River, Kitengela and Isinya have been placed on high alert following the outbreak of 'False Codling Moth'.

Incidentally, no known pesticide has been identified to deal with the new threat; which has already seen capsicum produce from Uganda banned from the EU market.

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