Kephis Targets Study in Push for Fresh Produce Exports to Europe

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) said findings from the survey being done by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) would be ready in a year. The agency hopes to use the data to counter assertions from the EU that fresh produce from Kenya has high chemical residue levels.

Visitors tour a flower farm in Njoro, Nakuru, last year. The EU set stringent health benchmarks for fruit, vegetable and flower exports from Kenya. FILE

Visitors tour a flower farm in Njoro, Nakuru, last year. The EU set stringent health benchmarks for fruit, vegetable and flower exports from Kenya. FILE

A standards agency has started gathering data on chemical residues on fresh produce in a bid to ease farmers’ access to the crucial European Union market.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) said findings from the survey being done by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) would be ready in a year.

Kephis hopes to use the data to counter assertions from the EU that fresh produce from Kenya has high chemical residue levels, a perception that forced the bloc to set stringent health benchmarks for fruit, vegetable and flower exports.

“After that, we expect to minimise the pesticide residue limit in our crops by over 60 per cent and comfortably meet EU targets,” Kephis managing director James Onsando said.

He was speaking during the opening of a five-day EU training workshop on plant health and protection products in Nairobi on Monday.

Early last year, beans and peas destined for Europe were rejected at entry points after they were found to have residue levels of a pesticide known as Dimethoate above the EU limit of 0.02 parts per million.

Dr Onsando said EU set the low residue limit because Kenya did not have data on levels of Dimethoate pesticide used in horticulture to kill pests like aphids and mites.

“Our farmers hadn’t done anything wrong. The challenge arose as a result of EU drastically changing its regulation and reducing acceptable limits of the pesticide tenfold from the previous 0.2 parts per million. This caught many people off guard,” said Dr Onsando.

He said that manufacturers of pesticide were reluctant to conduct tests and give the information to farmers and regulators because the costs involved would make the chemicals more expensive.

Health hazards

“Companies manufacturing pesticides for commercial crops like maize and coffee can afford to do so as these plants are grown on large scale and by very many farmers. So they generate more income from their sales,” Dr Onsando said.

European Union Delegation head Lodewijk Briet said the standards were aimed at protecting European countries from harmful organisms that may pose health hazards to consumers.

The EU is Kenya’s main market for fresh produce exports, taking up 23 per cent or Sh90 billion in 2012.

Exports of fresh horticultural products increased by 18.5 per cent from 247,847 tonnes in the year to September 2012 to 293,631 tonnes in the year to September 2013, according to the Central Bank of Kenya monthly economic review report for October. The study did not assign any value to the exports.

Cut flowers contributed 53 per cent in terms of total value, with fresh vegetables accounting for 37 per cent while fruits and nuts contributed 10 per cent.

– Business Daily