News that the European Union (EU) has blacklisted Kenya among countries that use high levels of pesticide in horticultural produce is alarming.
This categorisation comes just five months after Kenya was was removed from the same list, coming as a relief to many who rely on the exports for a livelihood.
The move by the EU poses a threat to horticultural exports, which is valued at hundreds of billions of shillings and is a major source of the country's foreign exchange.
Flowers made the bulk of the earnings in 2018 bringing in Sh113 billion, fruits raked in Sh27 billion and vegetables Sh12 billion. The blacklisting also calls to question the level of chemical residue in our locally consumed fruit and vegetables as well as the farming practices that lead to their overuse.
Focus also needs to shift to the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) as the statutory body mandated with ensuring horticultural produce attains the stringent compliance levels set by export markets around the world.
Blacklisting means that all the farm produce from Kenya must undergo mandatory time-consuming checks before being allowed in the EU market, calling into question whether Kephis officials are doing enough on their end to monitor the levels of chemical residue on our flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Other challenges dogging the sector such as improper marketing structures, muddy roads and lack of adequate refrigeration facilities also need to be addressed to help push up horticultural earnings.