Horticulture exports face new threat as EU acts on food miles
Kenya’s horticultural exports have come under renewed threat as the carbon footprints campaign gains momentum in key European markets, a new survey indicates.
In a report published on Wednesday, the European Union said the majority of consumers support the controversial carbon footprints concept and want it immediately implemented to help fight climate change.
Also known as the food miles concept, the carbon footprints campaign seeks to have all horticultural products sold in Europe labelled according to how far they have travelled between the farm and the retail shelves.
This means that horticultural products from European farms are considered to have caused less damage to the environment than imports from far-flung farms in Africa and Latin America that are airlifted over thousands of kilometres to reach the consumer.
The latest survey, conducted under the Eurobarometer platform found that four out of five Europeans consider the environmental impact of the products they bought, and would welcome help in making that decision through labelling of products for carbon foot prints.
“The battle against climate change must be fought on all fronts and everyone must contribute. It is not only the remit of companies and governments; consumers also have their part to play,” EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said.
“By purchasing environmentally and climate-friendly products, individual customers send the right signal to farmers to produce more eco-friendly products.”
Eurobarometer established that 72 per cent of EU citizens want mandatory labels indicating a product’s carbon footprint. It however admitted that attitudes varied widely between member states with the Czechs being the least in favour of such labelling (47 per cent). More than 90 per cent Greeks were found to be in favour of the labelling.
African farmers, supported by recent studies, have however dismissed the carbon footprints concept as a protectionist move by Europe to shield its farmers from external competition using non-tariff barriers (NTBs).
Kenyan horticulture exporters have particularly strongly opposed the food miles concept arguing that their produce is less damaging to the environment because it is produced naturally under the sun unlike European counterparts who produce tones of environment damaging emissions growing flowers and vegetables in green houses.
Research by key European institutions has found that producing vegetables in a greenhouse produces nearly 20 times more carbon than those produced under the sun in Africa and South America, and airlifted to Europe.
Kenyan growers have used the findings to launch “Grown Under the Sun” campaign to market their produce.
The Africa Research Institute has accused Europe of hypocrisy saying there is no evidence to support its claims.
“African crops are grown under the sun, cultivated by hand, and often transported in the holds of passenger aircraft carrying European holiday-makers to and from Africa’s beaches and game parks,” the institute said in a recent report.
“Growing horticultural crops out of season in Europe is heavily mechanised consumes huge amounts of energy in artificially heated ‘hot houses’,” the institute says in a report titled Kenya’s flying vegetables small farmers and the ‘food miles’ debate.
Eurobarometer’s findings are expected to rekindle the food miles debate that only fizzled out last with the publication of findings on the amount of pollution that arises from greenhouse farming.