Kenyan commercial fish farmers will now have a wider market after the European Union gave the go ahead for them to export the produce into its market.
Previously, only fish from natural sources including lakes like Victoria were permitted to the EU market.
But the market is now open to the private sector amid the growing aquaculture agribusiness as fish ponds become more popular in most parts of the country.
Two months ago, the EU cleared Kenya to export farm fish and fish products into the region after close to two years without accessing the market.
In the last one week, experts in the aquaculture sector have been training trainers in Nakuru on the sanitary and other requirements for the international market.
The five-day meeting brought together 20 fish inspectors from different parts of the country.
A similar training targeting the dairy sector was running at another hotel, also aimed at boosting both local and international markets.
The trainings are part of the EU-funded Standards and Market Access Programme (SMAP) which is being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido).
BOOST EXPORT MARKET
In a bid to boost the export sector, EU channelled 12.1 million Euros (Sh1.4 billion) to various players in Kenya’s export industry.
The money is to be spent under SMAP, which aims at extending capacity on Kenya’s technical, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements for international trade.
Fisheries officials hailed the programme saying it had come at the right time when the aquaculture sector is growing and braving for bigger markets.
Mr Daniel Mungai, an assistant director in the Fisheries Department, said the country was ready to export to not only the EU, but also globally.
Mr Mungai was one of the facilitators of the training which was held at a hotel along Kanu Street in the outskirts of Nakuru Town.
Among top requirements in the sector are high-level hygiene for both the aquaculture products as well as the handlers in the chain.
This requires keen following from production to the handling across the value chain.
Mr Mungai expressed optimism that following the trainings, fish export will soon be a booming business earning the country a lot in foreign exchange.
MEET GLOBAL EXPORT STANDARDS
“We are all here with one concrete purpose; market access,” said Mungai adding that this would only be realized by ensuring that Kenya meets global requirements for export.
Among the market access requirements are World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) technical guidelines and FAO/WTO Codex Alimentarius Food Standards.
Others include FAO Codes of Practice, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982 and World Health Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Aquatic Health Code.
At the dairy training, stakeholders were taught on the sector’s history in Kenya as well as requirements for the international market.
The training brought together players from both the private and public sector, who will train other stakeholders.
Currently, Kenya exports milk and other dairy products mainly to the East African region.
However, the international market has barely been exploited despite the numerous opportunities and the positive economic impact that would come with its exploitation.
“We are focusing on how we can capture international trade and boost the economic status across the value chain,” said Kenya Dairy Board Chief Dairy Inspector Mr Evanson Mwangi.
He expressed optimism that through SMAP, many stakeholders will be informed enough to explore the international market.
EMPHASIS ON QUALITY
But, Mwangi noted, the dairy sector must form a culture of focusing on quality locally as this will ease the practice on the international level.
The trainees were sensitised on hygienic milk handling both at the farm, delivery and processing levels, hazard identification and quality control and testing.
Both trainings also focused on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) for fish and dairy products as a key consideration especially for the export market.
Ms Christin Misiko, Unido’s SMAP Project Manager, said the programme focuses on five sectors including meat, horticulture, apiculture, dairy and aquaculture.
SMAP aims at enhancing food safety, quality and trade.
“At the end of the day, everyone across the chain in the five sectors will benefit as we boost international trade,” said Ms Misiko
Another training targeting fish farmers is set for next week in Nakuru.
SMAP is set to run until December 2016 and will be implemented by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), Unido and the Fisheries Department.
Other implementing partners are the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).