Kenya will resume the multi-billion lucrative European market in September this year after an eight-year break following an attack of mangoes by fruit flies.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA)–Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) states that resumption of the EU market is informed by the drastic reduction of fruit flies infestation in the leading mango growing counties.
HCD assistant director in charge of regulations and compliance Wilfred Yako explained that the recommencing of the profitable EU export market is further guided by the successful implementation of strategies to tame the pests such as the Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign launched two years ago and offering of traps to small-scale farmers.
“We are very optimistic that there will be no complications in reopening the market as the government and local farmers have been working together to implement approaches to reduce the spread of the pests. These include the establishment of pests’ free zones and use of traps and adhering to modern agricultural practices,” said Mr. Yako. Fruit flies were first discovered in the country in 2003 from Sri Lanka.
The emergence of the fruit fly in Kenya led to numerous interceptions of mango consignments by the EU authority between 2010 and 2014. As a result, Kenya imposed a temporary self-export ban to protect the market and institute acceptable pest management measures. After the ban, the government, among other stakeholders, started pursuing measures to help in reducing the pest in the country.
Geoffrey Kiganiri, a technical advisor to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems, confirmed that the EU is impressed by the progress so far recorded in Kenya in terms of taming the fruit flies. A dry run, he observed, was inducted in October 2020 between Kephis and ICIPE using hot water treatment technology and results submitted to EU. Approvals were received this year in January.
“We have been working with farmers to eradicate the pest and results so far achieved are impressive. We are now waiting for the first consignment of pest-free mangoes to be shipped in September this year. Equally, we are working on logistics and protocols to ensure smooth mango export to the EU market,” said Kiganiri.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana in a past interview said out of the total income realised annually, between Sh2 billion and Sh4 billion is lost due to damage by fruit fly.
Agriculture executive Robert Kisyula confirmed that implementation of agreed strategies has realised impressive results, for example, loss of mangoes has reduced to 20 per cent compared to between 40 per cent and 50 per cent in the last years.
“We have, together with farmers, effectively executed various initiatives and losses have reduced. These are comfortable figures prompting us to rejoin the EU market. For the last two years we have supplied over 10,000 traps to the farmers over and above ensuring regular interaction,” said Kisyula during a media tour in some of the established pest-free zones in the county this week. Keitt Exporters Limited stated that Kenya mangoes are some of the highly sought fruits in the European market.
The company technical manager, Japheth Mbandi, explained that a box containing 10 apple mango pieces cost between US$13 and US$14 in the EU market compared to US$6 in the Middle East market. The same quantity costs between Sh80 and Sh350 in the local market.
Mango is the second most common fruit produced in Kenya after banana. It was grown on 49,098 hectares producing 69.8 million kilos worth Sh10.5 billion in 2019.
Makueni County is leading in mango production with a total of 4.3 million mango trees grown by over 100,000 farmers producing more than 184,000 tonnes followed by Kitui and Machakos counties respectively.
Mango farming contributes about 40 per cent of the farm household income in the three counties. Despite the impressive production, Kisyula observed that the county is only able to export two per cent of the raw mango. Kisyula confirmed three cooperatives have been licensed to export mango to overseas markets as part of protecting farmers against exploitation by middlemen and unscrupulous traders.
Julius Ngwacu, a medium-scale farmer, says the reopening of the EU market will open up new opportunities to the local farmers who for long have suffered under the hands of brokers and middlemen.