Food exporters to European Union face tougher rules

Workers pack fruits for export at the Eldoret International Airport. Vegetable exporters are expected to meet new European Union safety rules. Photo/FILE
Workers pack fruits for export at the Eldoret International Airport. Vegetable exporters are expected to meet new European Union safety rules. Photo/FILE  Nation Media Group

Kenyan vegetable exporters to the European Union face tougher mandatory compliance procedures starting this month as new food safety rules take effect.

The Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) said that from January 1, all exporters of key vegetables to the bloc will have to provide details of the safety standards of their produce.

“All exporters of beans and peas including French beans, runner beans, sugar snaps, snow peas and garden peas are required to fill the common entry document Annex II in line with new EU requirements,” it said in a notice.

The European Parliament has adopted tough measures on food safety in which all consignments entering the bloc must be subject to thorough scrutiny right from the point of origin.

Under the new regulations, exporters to the EU will be required to fill a Common Entry Document (CED) which would be counterchecked by authorities to confirm compliance with all safety controls on harmful elements such as Aflatoxins, pesticide residues and metals such as lead.

“We hope to fit in with the new requirements because a lot of sensitisation is going on. We hope many will comply,” Joseph Ndirangu, a vegetable grower, said on phone.

Kenyan fresh produce exports to Europe have in the past two years come under threat as authorities in the target market tightened health controls on items such pesticides.

A number of Kenyan consignments have recently been locked out of the EU after buyers raised concern over the usage of a pesticide known as Dimethoate which is popular among Kenyan vegetable producers.

The pesticide in mainly used by tomato, cabbage and kale farmers to kill mites and insects.

In humans, repeated or prolonged exposure to pesticides such as Dimethoate is claimed lead to impaired memory and concentration, disorientation, severe depressions, irritability, confusion, headache, speech difficulties, delayed reaction times, nightmares, sleepwalking and drowsiness or insomnia.

A recent report by the European Commission (EC)’s Health and Consumers Directorate showed that in 2010 alone there were four cases of suspected contaminated food from Kenya compared to just one case the previous year.

The EU is a key market for fruits and vegetables as well Nile Perch from Kenya. The market bloc also takes up a large portion of Kenyan beverages such as coffee and tea.

The EC, however, did not specify the nature of contamination on the shipments from Kenya even as it raised a red flag over growing cases of suspicious food consignments entering the market bloc from all over the world.

Strict regulation on pesticide usage by the EU has been cited as a major barrier to growth in trade with several developing nations such as Kenya that are situated within the tropics and have to endure high levels of pest attacks every crop season.

In a tough stance to ensure that maximum residue levels are as low as possible, applicants seeking to make shipments to the EU must get approval for a pesticide used by submitting scientific information about the minimum amounts of the pesticide necessary to protect a crop and the residue level remaining on the crop after such treatment.

The European Food Safety Authority then verifies that the residue is safe for all its consumer groups.

Locally, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services is accredited to carry out such inspections on behalf of the EU thereby helping traders to avoid the expensive double inspection of their produce both at the point of exit and entry to the export market.