Forum calls for collaboration to up food safety

Rice farmers counting losses after their crop was destroyed by hailstones in Kochia ward, Rangwe, Homa Bay County. [James Omoro, Standard].

Kenya for a long time now has been a source of premium agricultural commodities for the global markets.

This has created employment opportunities for our people as well as earning the country foreign exchange.

However, the issues of the quality of the agricultural commodities has contributed to rejection of some of the produce at the global market place.

There is, therefore, need to move the stakeholders in this sector to produce commodities that comply with the global safety standards.

In this regard food paltform Rootooba, in partnership with Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices), hosted a three-day Global GAP TourStop 2023 themed: ‘Strengthening compliance and expanding markets for Kenya’s agricultural produce’.

The event brought together stakeholders in the agriculture sectors such as producers, agri-input suppliers, certification bodies, registered trainers, regulators, local and international retailers, policy makers, lending institutions, and development partners.

Speaking at the event, Apollo Owuor, Technical Director, Sustainable Farming Africa and board member of the Agriculture Sector Network noted that it is now time to turn the myriad of challenges facing Kenyan farmers into opportunities.

He added that the unpredictable climate coupled with the ever rising cost in doing business are making us less competitive in the global agricultural market arena.

“There is an urgent need to streamline our food production systems to align with the sanitary and phytosanitary standards, the guideline for producing safe food,” he said.

“This is where Global GAP comes in to help examine where we’ve come from, where we are and where we need to go.”

So as to go in the right direction there is need for concerted efforts from the national government, development partners and county government in the agriculture sector.

According to GAP global president Kristian Moeller, it is time to scale up the holistic approach to farm assurance that comprises of voluntary standards, certification and benchmarking.

“Farming is a noble profession and there is need to educate farmers on food safety, environmental sustainability and workers well-being in livestock and aquaculture, flowers and ornamentals, as well as fruits and vegetables farming,” said Dr Moeller.

He said this is an era of collaboration of like-minded people in public -private partnerships for a common good.

Moreover, there is need to cog in traceability systems. This will go a long way in creating consumer confidence and a step closer for Africa to feed the world.

Michael Michener, deputy assistant administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, said farmers have to be assisted to earn more from their ventures.

He also noted that, during the African Leaders Summit last December, US President Joe Biden committed 55 billion dollars to advance shared African and US priorities in the framework of African Union Agenda 2063.

This agenda seeks to increase intra-African trade especially in agriculture value added products three-fold, and this can be made possible by meeting food safety standards. According to Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimutai, embracing global food safety standards is the key that will open new markets for the Kenyan produce in addition to the already existing European market.

“There are opportunities for our produce in North America, Asia and Middle East. To tap into these markets, we must incorporate technology in agriculture such as smart irrigation and proper pest control strategies which will boost the quality and quantity of the surplus food for export,” he said.

The PS further noted that Kenya is signatory to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Protocol with the objective of making sure that food is safe and that trade is not hindered. He said a Food and Feed Coordination Bill is in the works. Previous food safety laws put more emphasis on food exportation than domestic, but the draft law seeks to ensure that domestic food is also taken care of and that the role of the County Governments and other competent authorities are well stipulated.

“If implemented, the Bill will ensure consumers get access to safe food and that international trade will not be hindered.

“Kenya is on the right track in ensuring food safety but there is need to continually improve especially on streamlining the informal sector which has been a big challenge,” noted the PS.