Early Harvest Woes: Impact of Premature Horticultural Produce on Export Markets

ByElijah Ludenyi

Sep 8, 2023
Premature Horticultural Produce Hurting Export MarketPremature Horticultural Produce Hurting Export Market

Last updated on March 2nd, 2024 at 05:51 pm

In summary:

  • The government is concerned about the export of premature horticultural produce affecting the reputation and standards of local products internationally.
  • Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi emphasizes the importance of harvesting fresh produce at the right time to meet international standards.
  • The government plans to support the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) in enforcing sector rules to guide farmers and exporters on when to harvest specific crops.

The government is expressing serious concerns about the continuous export of premature horticultural produce, which could potentially harm the reputation and quality of local products on the global stage.

Mithika Linturi, the Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Investment, is adamant that fresh produce should only be harvested when it reaches its optimal ripeness to ensure it meets the necessary international standards.

He underscores the necessity of this approach to prevent the country from being blacklisted and losing its market share in horticultural products due to the actions of unscrupulous exporters who prioritize profit margins over quality.

In order to facilitate informed harvesting decisions among horticultural farmers and exporters, the Ministry is committed to providing full support to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA).

This support will empower the AFA to effectively enforce the established regulations and requirements within the sector, as stated by the Cabinet Secretary.

Linturi also issues a stern warning about the potential consequences of allowing unscrupulous exporters to trade in premature produce.

Such practices could significantly impact the horticulture sector, jeopardizing the valuable export markets that the country has worked hard to access.

These concerns were raised in response to remarks made by Cornelly Serem, the Chairman of the AFA Board. Serem pointed out that some exporters, particularly in the case of avocados, were endangering future exports by shipping immature produce.

He also highlighted the need for careful handling during the transportation of avocados to maintain their quality.

Serem urged farmers and exporters to collaborate closely with crop inspectors to ensure full compliance with the importing country’s requirements.

He also mentioned that the AFA would facilitate discussions in various counties to foster dialogue among all stakeholders and regulators in the industry.

These discussions took place during a stakeholder meeting held at the Eldoret International Airport, attended by several dignitaries, including Cabinet Secretary for Roads Kipchumba Murkomen, Governors Stephen Sang (Nandi) and Ken Lusaka (Bungoma), as well as Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Eng.

Johan Barorot and his Baringo counterpart Felix Maiyo. Serem acknowledged that the AFA had been relatively inactive for some time but assured that it was now reinvigorated and developing a comprehensive strategy to support fresh produce farmers in producing high-quality goods for export.

Addressing concerns about the Eldoret Airport’s runway capacity, the Cabinet Secretary for Roads and Transport assured that plans were underway to expand the runway from its current length of 3.5 kilometers to 4 kilometers.

Additionally, efforts were being made to secure additional land for a 600-meter extension to enhance safety and logistics, allowing larger cargo planes to land and take off.

Currently, the runway can only accommodate cargo planes weighing up to 55 tonnes.

The Cabinet Secretary also informed industry stakeholders that the runway’s lighting had been fully restored, and a robust power backup system was in progress to ensure continuous illumination.

Furthermore, he announced that tenders for the supply of jet fuel at the airport, a long-standing concern for many flights, were under evaluation and would soon be awarded, alleviating the issue of fuel shortages.

Both Cabinet Secretaries expressed concerns about Eldoret Airport primarily handling imports while cargo flights returned empty due to a lack of export goods.

According to Murkomen, Eldoret Airport is the second busiest in the country after Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, handling 12,000 metric tonnes of goods annually.

However, the majority of these goods are imports, such as electronics, garments, and motor vehicle spare parts.

To fully utilize the airport’s potential, there is a need for a joint marketing strategy and a reliable supply source for horticultural products within the region.

Nevertheless, the Cabinet Secretary cautioned that the future of farming in the country’s arable lands faced a serious threat from ongoing land fragmentation, which could render farming economically unsustainable in the long run. He urged the country to make tough decisions to address this issue, emphasizing that agriculture was the fastest way to boost the economy and create employment for the youth, provided there was increased productivity.

The Agriculture CS added that the government was actively working on securing markets for horticultural products, citing upcoming flights to India for avocados and previously secured markets for pineapples and fish in Israel.

However, he noted that meeting market demand with sufficient production was a challenge that needed to be addressed.

Uasin Gishu County has seen a significant increase in horticulture production, becoming a major economic sector since the advent of devolution. The County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Agriculture, Edward Sawe, credited this growth to the county government’s support for diversifying into high-value crops for export, moving away from traditional maize and wheat farming.

Through various initiatives, the county has distributed substantial quantities of avocado seedlings, macadamia nut seedlings, tissue culture bananas, and coffee seedlings, fostering a diverse range of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices for both domestic and export markets.

Despite these achievements, challenges such as reliance on rain-fed agriculture, pest and disease issues, and limited value addition still persist within the horticulture sector.