NAIROBI (AA) – Kenya risks losing millions of dollars in foreign currency if it proves unable to meet European guidelines for importing horticultural produce.
“The E.U. market now requires that horticultural produce should not contain more than 2 percent of herbicide sprayed on the crop,” Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Felix Koskei told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
The East African country, which is the world’s largest producer of snow peas and a leading producer of French peas and flowers, has until the end of September to ensure that all its produce exports meet the new standards – or risk losing the lucrative market.
Koskei said the new regulations would soon be gazetted by his government with a view to ensuring the required ratios of chemicals in its export produce before the September deadline.
“My ministry will ensure that the produce meets the required standard to avoid losing this market,” he asserted.
“We have begun by sensitizing farmers and fertilizer retailers on the new measures and what steps we expect them to take,” he added.
The official cited previous difficulties with the E.U. regarding the quality of exported produce.
“Nine times this year, there have been interventions by the E.U. market,” Koskei recalled.
Kenya earns nearly $1 billion annually from horticultural exports for which Europe represents its primary market.
Meru County on the slopes of Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain, is home to the country’s horticultural sector.
Meru County Assembly Deputy Speaker Gideon Kimathi said the new restrictions would come as a blow to the county, which is still reeling from a May ban on the export of Khat – a locally-grown natural narcotic – to the Netherlands and Britain.
“We had directed our focus on horticulture, which fetches good money, after most European countries banned Khat,” he told AA.
“We were aiming to increase horticulture farming in Meru County to translate into increased revenue for the county and country,” the provincial lawmaker added.
Harrison Gitau, an assistant manager at Greenlands Farm in Meru’s Timau area, said the farm was now threatened with closure if the E.U. decided to apply a ban on the snow peas they grow.
“Our farm wholly depends on crops meant for export to E.U. countries,” he told AA. “More than 400 employees will have lost their livelihoods if a ban is affected.”
Gitau added: “I urge the national government to intervene early enough to ensure that the ban is not affected.”
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