Boost for horticulture exports as State lab gets clean bill of health

Kenya’s prospect of increased horticultural exports has received a major boost after the State laboratory got the nod to test chemical pesticide residues.

Tuesday January 26 2016

A greenhouse at a flower farm in Naivasha, Nakuru County. Lake Naivasha is dying as it is slowly having its waters exported to Europe through horticulture. Plants are up to 70 per cent water and it worries me how a water-poor nation is so callously exporting so much water to secure, water-rich countries. PHOTO | FILE

A greenhouse at a flower farm in Naivasha, Nakuru County. PHOTO | FILE 

By EDWIN OKOTH
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Kenya’s prospect of increased horticultural exports has received a major boost after the State laboratory got the nod to test chemical pesticide residues.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service said its Analytical Chemistry Laboratory was given a clean bill of health to test produce destined for major markets such as the European Union (EU), where Kenya sells most of its flowers, fruits and vegetables.

The lab’s re-accreditation was done by the South African National Accreditation Service (SANAS).

Kephis Managing Director Esther Kimani said the move is a major relief to the Kenyan farmers whose produce has had challenges accessing the highly standardised market due to undetected chemical residues.

“This re-accreditation means that the laboratory’s competency can be assured. Therefore the pesticide residue monitoring programme which is key to export to the EU meets the requirements of obtaining reliable -and valid data,” Dr Kimani said.

“This will help Kenya’s exports such as beans and peas that are exported with pods to pass the increased scrutiny on exceedances of pesticides in the EU market.”

Several Kenyan horticultural produce which have been under increased scrutiny recently for   high level of pesticides will now get easy quality assurance before export.

Kephis in collaboration with the horticultural industry is also implementing a national programme aimed at ensuring early detection of pesticide.

The market access requirements have for a long time been a challenge to Kenyan exporters eyeing the European trading bloc.

Kenya earns close to Sh90 million in foreign exchange for exporting   baby corn, snow peas, French beans, passion fruits, sugar snaps, and snow peas, among others to the EU.

The country went through challenges when the EU withdrew licences from 11 horticulture firms over high levels of pesticides and other harmful organisms in their produce. The country was then given the deadline of 30 September last year to comply with maximum residual limits rules.

The EU had previously accused local producers and exporters of consistently shipping produce that contains high levels of  pesticide and pests, as well as not adhering to good agricultural practices.

BUILD CONFIDENCE

The laboratory situated at the Kephis headquarters in Karen, will receive samples from farmers and dealers in horticulture for analyses. This is expected to build their confidence as they seek to access the lucrative EU market.

Kephis says it has embarked on training and conducting farmer forums to explain the market requirements and advise on chemicals use. 

“The national monitoring programme we do is targeted at problematic areas. Kephis identifies which regions have serious problems of residues and chemicals and we focus on that area. At the end of the process, the farmers will realise the need for adherence and avoid losses associated with rejected produce,” the Kephis boss told Smart Company. 

A multi-state agency team involving Horticultural Crops Directorate and Pest Control Products Board have been engaging farmers for the last nine months to build their capacity and stave off a potential ban from key markets.

More than 150,000 farmers export fresh produce to the EU. This represents just 10 per cent of all horticulture farmers.

The government in October 2014 suspended the use of a controversial pesticide, Dimethoate and its related substrates on fruits and vegetables.

  “The Pest Control Products Board has with immediate effect suspended all foliar use of Dimethoate…on vegetables and fruits,” Faith Mutwiri, chairperson of the board, said in the Kenya Gazette notice.

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