Mango farmers should expect a reprieve next year when Kenya resumes export to Europe, the US and other key markets after a ban imposed by the regulator six years ago is lifted.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) says the country has put in place measures to address the issues that led to the 2014 ban.
Kephis Phytosanitary Services General Manager Isaac Macharia said the agency had established five pest-free areas in Elgeyo Marakwet and Makueni that would act as export zones.
The ban on mango exports, said the Kephis, was effected following high levels of fruit flies that saw Kenyan consignments intercepted on several occasions, hence the pre-emptive freeze before a ban.
“We have been addressing the issue and so far we are in the process of controlling fruit flies at these pest-free zones. This means that we are resuming exports next year,” said Dr Macharia.
Countries that stopped imports of Kenyan fruits include Australia, Seychelles and Mauritius. The move is always a precautionary measure aimed at stopping the introduction of pests to the countries.
Kenya grapples with cases of exotic pests that have seen some of the country’s produce such as chillies and French beans restricted in certain markets.
Kephis managing director Esther Kimani said the agency had increased surveillance to ensure no foreign pest gets into Kenya through ports of entry.
“We have become more vigilant as we no longer want cases of exotic pests in Kenya,” she said yesterday.
Dr Kimani was speaking at an event to mark International Day of Plant Health, which United Nations announced would be celebrated worldwide this year to give more emphasis on the well-being of crops.
Food and Agriculture Organisation Country Representative Tobias Takavarasha said plant health is an important aspect in ensuring food security. “We need to ensure the plants are healthy if we want to manage the issues of hunger,” he said.
Kenya’s horticultural produce is continually facing challenges in exports because of the phytosanitary requirements.
For instance, avocado has been slapped with stringent rules to adhere to before accessing the lucrative Chinese market.
Under the deal agreed in April this year between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Kenya would only be allowed to export frozen avocado as a way of taming fruit flies, common in the country.