Stiffer quality checks for fresh produce exporters


Avocado fruits packaged for export. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

Farmers, transporters and exporters who fail to comply with new fresh produce procedures risk being excluded from the export market following a new guide to ensure compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements at the regional and international levels.

The National Horticulture Taskforce (NHT) has launched Good Agricultural Practice Guides for avocados, beans and peas that compel exporters to comply with the standards demanded by destination markets to avoid bans.

This is amid rising levels of interception tied to the harvest of immature crops, storage and transportation, disease and pest controls and hygiene, restricting access to the export markets and reducing the country’s competitiveness.

“At every stage for every operator from the producer to the transporter to the person who consolidates to the market, there's a procedure in which we are advising on how to attain these (requirements) religiously as enumerated in the guide,” said Clement Tulezi, CEO of the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and chairman of the National Horticulture Taskforce.

“The guide is need driven. It's because of the statistics that we have been able to assess over the last five years that show our volumes are dropping. We are losing a lot within the major markets that we had.”

He warned that there is no vacuum, meaning when Kenya is locked out, another country takes its place.

Avocados, French beans and peas are among the key horticultural produce whose earnings heavily impact the overall returns in the sector.

However, there have been restrictions and interceptions in the European Union market for French beans and peas due to excessive pesticide residue.

Avocados have faced challenges including harvesting of immature fruit, poor postharvest handling of the fruit, infestation of false codling moth and diseases, and ending up reducing Kenya’s ability to compete with exports from Peru and Mexico.

The horticulture directorate has periodically put in place export bans for Hass and Fuerte avocado varieties—with exceptions given to exporters specialising on the Jumbo variety and those having off-season crops—to curb harvesting of immature crop.

Revenue from sales abroad amounted to Sh152.27 billion in 2022, an 8.1 percent drop from Sh165.65 billion in 2021, according to export statistics from the Economic Survey 2023.

However, avocado earnings rose to Sh12.39 billion from Sh9.54 billion in 2021 helped by an increase in prices.

The Good Agricultural Practice Guides have been developed by local stakeholders and funded by the EU to maintain commercial quality and follow regulatory requirements for beans, peas and avocados.

The guide will see exporters and out-growers certified with bare minimum national horticulture standards while enhancing inspection.

NHT has also recommended the establishment of an internal audit system for exporting companies with a focus on risk profiling, sampling and inspection.

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