The solution to Kenya’s over-reliance on the EU is to look for new markets

Mon, Jul 26, 2021

Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) working with private sector and agencies to diversify export markets.

Kenyan horticultural sector needs to look for new markets for its products to remain relevant and competitive. Of importance is the need to stop the over-reliance on the European Union (EU), which keeps on shifting its requirements, especially on the use of pesticides. This was noted by Harsama Kello, the acting Director General of AFA, during a media briefing on the performance of the horticulture industry at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, on July 12 2021. He said that the EU market has been changing regulatory requirements, resulting in increased notifications due to pesticide maximum residue limits (MRLs) and interceptions due to quarantine pests.

“The tropical nature of our climate is favourable for pest infestation, therefore pest control is mandatory to ensure food security and produce quality,” said Kello. “However, due to EU regulations the number of authorised pesticides is shrinking against a high incidence of pest and resistance to available pesticides.”

To remedy the situation, Kello called for the diversification of Kenya’s export market through promotion of horticultural products in non-traditional markets such as Russia, Asia, SADC, and COMESA.

He noted that the horticultural industry continues to be a leading source of employment in the country, with 6.5 million Kenyans being employed directly and indirectly.

The total area under horticulture is estimated to be 496,062 hectares, with production of 7.9 million metric tonnes. The value of domestic horticulture was estimated at Ksh68.5 billion in 2019.

In 2020, the total value of fresh horticultural exports was Ksh150.2 billion from 313,668 metric tonnes of produce compared to Ksh143 billion, in 2019, from 328,335 metric tonnes.

Flowers accounted for Ksh107.5 billion, which translates to about 72 per cent of horticultural produce from 62,575 metric tonnes, while vegetables and fruits accounted for KSH24.2 billion (16 per cent) and Ksh18.8 billion (12 per cent) respectively from 105,060 metric tonnes.

Kello explained that the EU is currently the largest consumer of Kenyan horticultural exports accounting for about 45 per cent of the country’s exports. “Major export produce includes cut flowers, French beans, snow peas and Asian vegetables,” he said. “The major export destinations are The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, the Middle East and the Far East.”

However, local consumption of horticultural products accounts for 96 per cent of total production. Only 4 per cent is exported, out of which 70 per cent is flowers, he added.


Despite the relative success of the horticultural industry, the DG outlined some of the challenges facing the sector. These include high transaction costs along the value chain, which negatively affects competitiveness. “The Covid-19 pandemic also affected the sub sector through travel restrictions and reduced cargo space, which impacted on exports of produce and importation of inputs,” said Kello.

Kello announced that AFA recently launched KS1758, the quality mark for the horticulture standard, is referenced in the horticulture regulations of 2020.   He called industry players to familiarise themselves with the standard and comply with the requirements.

“Kenyans demand safe and quality produce to safeguard our health and environment.  The KS1758 mark of quality will be a safety to consumers”, he concluded.

AFA has also approved six certification bodies to facilitate certification of compliance to the KS1758 requirements.

Working with the county governments, the enforcement of the regulations, which is now law covers packaging, transportation, distribution and cleaning of horticulture.

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