Kenya’s plant health regulator has joined a regional effort to contain invasive pests that are emerging from Burundi and Uganda, exposing the country's major exports to interception risks.
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Centre of Biosciences International (Cabi) and Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) are now working together to stop the spread of mealybugs — a quarantine pest in Europe and China — into Kenya, cutting risks of rejections in the world market.
The move follows two interceptions of Kenya’s exports to Europe and the United Arab Emirates in January and now on mango and avocado.
The Sh140 million project is aimed at mitigating the threat of pests and lower rejection of Kenya’s horticultural produce on the international markets.
Kephis managing director Theophilus Mutui said the East African Community has recently registered many cases of invasive pests and measures have to be taken to curb the danger they pose.
“EAC countries have seen a growth in the number of mango and papaya mealybug pests which are a danger to the exports of our produce due to economic loss that they pose,” said Prof Mutui.
Kephis, he said, has built strong linkages with stakeholders on pest detection, control and management.
Mary Lucy Oronje, a scientist with Cabi— the agency that will implement the project — said they are focusing on mealybugs.
“China and Europe are our key markets for avocados and these pests mainly attack these crops. This is the reason we are coming up with this project so that we curb the danger that they can cause to our export market,” said Dr Oronje
The three-year project, which will also see interventions in the two countries, will seek to increase compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements for the fruits through improved surveillance and management of scale insect pests.
The pests, in some cases, have been known to cause devastating crop yield losses of up to 90 percent.