PUBLISHED ON July 24th, 2014


The reputation of Kenya’s horticulture exports to the European Union remains under threat as local dealers step up smuggling of rejected flowers and fruits to Europe.

Data from European Food Safety Commission showed that 45 consignments of contaminated fresh produce sourced from Kenya were intercepted in the four months to April — cementing a trend analysts warned could ruin the country’s competitiveness if not checked.

This is up from 41 consignments captured in the same period last year and pales in comparison to nine contaminated shipments from Ethiopia, which rivals Kenya in the export of flowers to the EU.

The banned shipments are set to up pressure on Kenya to enhance safety measures on its horticulture exports as it emerges that some farmers are still using banned pesticides during production.

“We have had a lot of sensitisation on the strict safety requirements in the EU but a few guys out there don’t seem to heed the word,” Joseph Waweru, a mid-sized horticulture producer in Limuru said by phone. “Unfortunately we may all be affected in the long run.”

Kenya may lose its position as the world’s biggest horticultural exporter, in the wake of the rising cost of production and compliance bottlenecks linked to the tighter safety measures.

There are concerns that flower importers are shifting focus to Ethiopia and India, which have cheaper flowers than Kenya.

Kenya earned Sh93 billion from the cultivation of fruit, vegetables, flowers and nuts last year, up from Sh87.71 billion in 2012.

The European Parliament has adopted tough measures on food safety in which all consignments entering the bloc must be subject to thorough scrutiny right from the point of origin.

Under the new regulations, exporters to the EU are required to fill a Common Entry Document which would be counter checked by authorities to confirm compliance with all safety controls on harmful elements such as Aflatoxins, pesticide residues and heavy metals such as lead.

The European Food Safety Authority then verifies that the residue is safe for all its consumer groups.

Dr James Onsando, the managing director of Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate service, said that although under increased scrutiny, 90 per cent of Kenyan produce still enters the EU market without testing, adding that of the 10 per cent that undergoes mandatory testing, about four per cent gets notified.

“It is possible to go from 10 per cent scrutiny to two per cent or less for our key horticultural exports if farmers and exporters do not re-export produce that has been rejected,” he said in a statement. Farmers must also adhere to the authorized and registered pesticides, observe pre-harvest intervals before harvesting, and use only the appropriate pesticides, he said.

A number of Kenyan consignments have recently been locked out of the EU after buyers raised concern over the use of a pesticide known as dimethoate that is popular among vegetable farmers. It is mainly used by tomato, cabbage and kale farmers to kill mites and insects.

Source: Business Daily

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