By Ruth Vaughan
Concerted efforts and measures have been on-going in Kenya to enhance food safety, compliance and competitiveness in Kenya’s fresh produce
While horticulture has been defined as the science and art of growing fruits and vegetables, floriculture, on the other hand is the sustainable growth of flowers and ornamental plants. Both horticulture and floriculture involve a higher level of inputs and expertise compared to other farming practices, is more intensive, and rewards the farmer with higher levels of outputs than other farming methods. Kenya enjoys a long history of growing horticultural and floriculture crops for both the domestic and the export markets. The country is an ideal equatorial location, with lots of sunshine and very variable climatic zones that make it suitable growing a wide range of crops. This is backed up with a good road system, excellent cargo handling facilities at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and the port of Mombasa and an educated, helpful and hard-working work force.
Kenya’s Horticultural Industry
Given that the agricultural sector continues to dominate the Kenyan economy with about 70% of the working population earning a living from the sector and the sector still contributing to about 50% to the GDP, the horticultural industry happens to be the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector and is ranked third in terms of foreign exchange (FOREX) earnings from exports after tourism and tea. Among the existing agricultural enterprises, horticulture offers increased food security, improved nutrition, generation of higher income, more employment and increased foreign exchange earnings. In 2015 Kenya produced about 12 million MT of total horticultural produce valued at KES211 billion (US$ 2.048 billion).
Cut flowers, vegetables and fruits are the major contributors to horticultural and floricultural production in Kenya.
Increasingly, however, medicinal and aromatic plants, including herbs and spices, are being produced to meet the demand in Kenya’s main export market, the European Union (EU), though produce is sent to 60 other destinations all over the world.
The Kenya Horticultural Council (KHC) was formed in 2007 as an umbrella organization consisting of the Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK). Its mission is “enhanced growth and development of the horticultural industry in Kenya”.
The main objective for the establishment of the KHC was to foster compliance and market access through an effective quality management system and to help exporters in complyingwith local and international market requirements. This is attained through a solid public-private partnership involving industry stakeholders and the national and county governments.
Notably, Kenya’s vegetables export volume increased from 40,000 MT in 2015 to 55,000 MT between Jan-Oct 2016. This reflected a huge 17 per cent growth which resulted from improved market access into the EU, after stringent measures set by the Union had been put into place.
In reflection, Kenya’s Fresh produce body – Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), was formed in 1975 as a trade organization representing growers, exporters and service providers in the horticultural industry. The body supports growers by providing technical and marketing information; it also offers training and runs active lobbying and advocacy programs to enhance the sector’s overall competitiveness.
The Kenya Flower Council (KFC), on the other hand, was formed in 1996 as a voluntary organization of independent growers and exporters of flowers. Fundamentally, the flower industry has recorded growth in volume and value of flowers over the years from about 11,000 MT in 1988 to 133,000 MT in 2016. The flower industry employs over 100,000 people directly and 500,000 indirectly, positively impacting over 2 million livelihoods. Critically, over 60 per cent of people employed in the industry are women while over 4000 small scale growers and vendors are engaged in the industry.
Support from Netherlands
With support from the Netherlands (Dutch) Government, the KFC spearheaded the National Mechanism for Compliance (NMC), launched in Nov 2015, to build capacity for sustained market access. The mechanism launched a review process, with government bodies and industry stakeholders, of the national standards KS 1758 Horticultural Code of Practice 2004. This resulted in the launch of KS 1758-1: 2015, Horticultural Industry Code of Practice and culminated in the launch of KS1758-2:2016, Horticultural Industry Code of Practice Part 2: Fruit and Vegetables, by the KHC, which has recently been gazetted and with relevant trainings being on-going.
Essentially, the KS1758 standard focuses on good agricultural practice, sustainability, food safety, social accountability, hygiene, health and safety, capacity building and environmental protection and conservation in the horticultural industry and shall promote the securing of an enhanced and sustainable international market access and as well as ensure the safety and ethical production of produce for the local market. Kenya government bodies, including the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and private sector stakeholders must be commended for their hard work in developing these new standards.
The aforementioned standards require independent ISO Accredited Laboratory Analysis of inputs and outputs of the industry, including soil, water, fertilizers, plants and produce. Stakeholders, citizens and other interested parties are invited to visit the CropNuts stand at the Naivasha Horticultural Show, or contact the company on firstname.lastname@example.org, to learn more on the partnership opportunities that should empower fresh produce farmers and supply chain players among other interested parties on strategies for complying with the new industry standards.
Ruth Vaughan is the Technical Director at Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd. (CROPNUTS). Ruth is also a contributing author to Kenya’s leading horticulture magazines such as the HortFresh Journal, HortiNews and Floricu