The livelihoods of more than two million Kenyans who depend directly and indirectly on floriculture are in the balance as the country stands to lose the lucrative European flower markets.
According to the European Union, Kenya must comply with the provisions of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) aimed at creating a free trade area between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).
Before December 2007, most of Kenya’s exports to the EU market were exempt from import duty on the basis of a non-reciprocal market access extended to Kenya and ACP member countries.
The exemption was initially under the Lome Convention and thereafter under the Cotonou Agreement (2000-2007).
But after its expiry, Kenya and its East African Community partner States adopted the EPA to safeguard their interests in the EU, enabling Kenya’s exports to continue enjoying duty free and quota free access.
Kenya has until October to sign the EPA with the EU or lose the lucrative flower markets.
“If government fails to sign the agreements by October 1, Kenyan flowers will face import duties of between eight and 12 per cent,” said Kenya Flower Council chief executive Jane Ngige.
This, according to experts, would expose Kenya’s exports to competition from countries that export to the EU duty-free.
A clause in the EPA seeks to bar signatories from entering into bilateral talks with partners in areas where EU does not enjoy preferential terms.
Speaking to the Sunday Nation, EU Trade and Communications Counsellor Christopher De Vroey said signing the agreements is important as Kenya is the only country in the region that does not now qualify for duty free export.
Other issues the EU wants Kenya to agree to are the respect for human rights and practising good governance.
Kenya’s main markets for cut roses are the Netherlands, UK, Germany Russia, Japan, USA, Australia Italy and Middle East.