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Economy

Rising EU blockage worries Kenyan fresh produce exporters

Tending Capsicum. It is Kenya’s most intercepted fresh produce in the EU. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH
Tending Capsicum. It is Kenya’s most intercepted fresh produce in the EU. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH 

Kenya’s fresh produce exporters have raised the alarm over increased blockage of their goods in Europe due to quality concerns.

From January, the exports have been intercepted 29 times due to harmful organisms in a crackdown that makes it difficult for Kenya to be removed from the European Union’s quality watch list.

According to Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA), the industry regulator, 17 out of the interceptions involved capsicum due to the False Codling Moth (FCM).

“Increased interceptions on pests can lead to visits by the European Commission Directorate-General Health and Food Safety inspectors and increased controls,” Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) board chairman Apollo Owuor told an industry meeting in Nairobi yesterday.

The meeting brought together farmers, fresh produce exporters, industry regulators and lobby groups.

Kenya exported Sh102 billion worth of horticultural produce in 2016, the bulk of it in EU markets.

“Kenya is now the 13th country on the alert list of EU plant health due to the issue of FCM on peppers. Fraudulent issuing of phytosanitary certificates also need to be resolved.”

The HCDA data shows that between April 2016 and May 2017, Kenya’s exports have suffered a total of 46 such interceptions. Out of that number, capsicum was stopped 21 times due to FCM, nine interceptions involved ocimum (great basil) due to leaf miners, while luffa cucumbers were stopped five times over fruit flies.

The False Codling Moth could be a major issue for Kenya as exporters need to prove that either cold treatment has been used or that the area is free from the pest to continue exporting affected products,” said Mr Owuor.

Kenya finds itself between a rock and hard place in its bid to rid its fields of pests as EU agencies continue to lower the maximum residue level (MRL), the highest level of a pesticide residue to be legally tolerated on food.

The peas in pods whose MRL currently stands  at 10 per cent is set to be reviewed to five effective from July1, raising compliant standards.

FPEAK says a large number of smallholder farmers lack skills on good agricultural practices in an environment where they face high disease and pest pressure.

“We are also worried about Brexit impact on Kenya’s horticultural taxation and import regulations. Will the UK adopt new regulations or keep the EU regulations on horticulture?” Post Mr Owuor.

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