Economy

Kenya steps up surveillance of coconut disease

GM maize in Kibos, Kisumu

Kephis managing director Theophilus Mutui checks on BT maize in Kisumy County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya is on a high alert following the outbreak of coconut necrosis disease along the Indian Ocean coast, that has so far wiped out all the crop in Mozambique and could threaten Kenya’s Sh5 billion industry.
  • Kenya Plant and Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) managing director Theophilus Mutui said they had started surveillance to establish if the deadly disease could have reached the country.

Kenya is on a high alert following the outbreak of coconut necrosis disease along the Indian Ocean coast, that has so far wiped out all the crop in Mozambique and could threaten Kenya’s Sh5 billion industry.

Kenya Plant and Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) managing director Theophilus Mutui said they had started surveillance to establish if the deadly disease could have reached the country.

Prof Mutui said this is aimed at stopping and establishing mitigation measure in the event the virus is detected.

“We have started surveillance at Kenya’s coast to establish if this disease has reached Kenya so that we can start mitigation measures before it spreads,” said Prof Mutui.

Coconut is a major crop for the coastal people in Kenya and forms one of the key crops that households rely on for their economic needs.

Mr Mutui said some of the mitigation measures will include uprooting and burning affected crops to stop the spread.

He was speaking yesterday during the launch of a phytosanitary conference that among other things will discuss and come up with measures on containing pests and diseases that are normally brought to Kenya through the ports of entry.

Kephis chairman Robin Achoki said the organisation has increased surveillance in all ports of entry to control.

“Threats to plants such as pests and diseases, cross-boundary transfers of pests through international travel and trade, disruptive human activities, and climate change are increasingly contributing negatively to food security efforts,” he said.

Director of Crops Douglas Kangi said Kenya is targeting to lower the percentage of the crop that is wasted through diseases and pests invasion to 20 percent for the country to be food secure.

Experts estimate that up to 40 percent of crop losses occur due to pest invasion.

“Our target is to cut the numbers to 20 percent to improve food security in the country,” he said.

, costing the global economy over $220 billion annually.

This conference is being held at a time when the world is celebrating the International Year of Plant Health following the adopted resolution by the United Nations General Assembly to increase awareness among the public and policymakers of the importance of healthy plants and the necessity to protect them to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and push the global food security and nutrition agenda.