Germany, Japan tests on Kenyan coffee conflict


A farmer in Tuiyo, Kapseret Constituency of Uasin Gishu County during harvesting of ripe berries on September 25, 2021. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

A test conducted in Germany on the same consignment of coffee that had been flagged in Japan for having surpassed the minimal level of chemical residue returned negative, bringing a new twist on the previous findings.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) managing director Theophilus Mutui said the tests conducted on the same coffee samples in Germany turned out to be negative.

Prof Mutui said the same test here in Kenya had also turned negative, bringing to question the method that was used by Japan.

In Germany, said Prof Mutui, the level of the said substance was below 0.05 percent, which is the minimum threshold that is permitted.

“Two other tests in Kenya and Germany turned negative and we are now wondering why the authorities in Tokyo flagged it,” he said.

The Japanese authorities said last week that samples taken out of Kenyan coffee had been found to have chlorpyrifos — an active ingredient found in the insecticides used to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests.

The Japanese authorities said they had detected 0.06 parts per million in the coffee that was sampled, which was above the required minimum of 0.05 percent. Japan is Kenya’s sixth largest importer of coffee having earned the country Sh1.5 billion in foreign exchange last year.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare advised all coffee growers in Kenya as well as exporters of fresh beans to exercise voluntary tests at warehouses and at the packaging of the product.

The issue of high levels of pesticides has been a key concern for exporters as it risks a permanent ban on Kenya’s produce.

South Korea had in 2020 banned Kenya’s coffee over high levels of the ochratoxin chemical, which had exceeded the allowable minimum, resulting in the rejection of the produce.

Kenya Coffee Producers Association has previously urged the government to address the issue, arguing that it could have a negative effect on other importing countries as well.

“The flagging of Kenyan coffee by the key markets due to high levels of contamination does not augur well for the sector. The government has to move fast in addressing this challenge,” said Peter Gikonyo, the association’s chairperson in a previous interview.

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