The National Horticulture Taskforce in Kenya has introduced Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) guidelines for avocado, beans, and peas in pods.
These guidelines aim to help farmers meet international standards, prevent losses, and improve the quality of horticultural produce. By addressing challenges in the industry and promoting good practices, the guidelines will ensure the supply of high-quality produce at the national, regional, and international levels.
The taskforce, consisting of stakeholders from the private and public sectors, developed the guidelines with the assistance of local experts. Regular reviews will be conducted to keep farmers informed about market demands.
The chairman of the taskforce, Clement Tulezi, who is also the CEO of the Kenya Flower Council, emphasised the importance of these guidelines, particularly considering the challenges faced by the horticulture industry.
Problems such as compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, the presence of harmful organisms, and the use of pesticides have negatively affected the industry.
Tulezi explained that immature avocados being harvested have resulted in a decline in avocado exports. “Farmers have also been harvesting immature avocadoes, which has led to flagging of avocado exports in the niche’ markets,” said Mr Tulezi said during the launch of the guidelines. “This is among the biggest challenges affecting the sub-sector. The good practice guides contain strategies on addressing these challenges,” he added.
Despite being a major avocado producer in Africa, Kenya only exports 15 per cent of its avocado production.
Harsama Kello, the principal secretary for the State Department for crop development, highlighted the need for a paradigm shift in the horticulture industry to ensure Kenya’s competitiveness in international markets. The horticulture sub-sector has experienced significant growth, generating KSh146 billion from exports in 2022. This surpasses the earnings from the tea industry, which has traditionally been Kenya’s primary foreign exchange earner.
“The sub-sector has registered tremendous growth driven by increased demand for high-quality and safe produce for both local and export markets. Sustaining this growth for the benefit of the actors in the sub-sector and government will require a paradigm shift to ensure efficiency and quality assurance,” Mr Kello said.
During the launch of the guidelines, representatives from various organizations stressed the importance of implementing the regulations to enhance Kenya’s horticulture sector. Eric Kimunguyi, CEO of Croplife Kenya/Agrochemicals Association of Kenya, emphasized the significance of adhering to maximum residue limits (MRL) in crop production.
“There are different policies that touch on the MRL challenge. We, therefore, have to acknowledge them and comply with the guidelines provided,” said Mr Kimunguyi.
Dr Esther Kimani, CEO of the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), and Josiah Sianda from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) urged producers, consolidators, and exporters to comply with market standards to maintain Kenya’s reputation in global markets.
Producers, consolidators and exporters need to be well-conversant with their target markets’ demands to ensure compliance with these markets’ standards,” said Dr Kimani.
Mr Sianda, on his part entreated all Kenyans to pool their efforts together to address the challenge of exceedance of chemical residue in horticulture products.
“For growers, consolidators and exporters, a lack of compliance with the standards and regulations means Kenya’s horticulture image is adversely affected in the global markets,” Mr Sianda said.
The Committee Linking Entrepreneurship Agriculture Development (COLEAD), through its Enhancing Kenyan Horticultural Export (NExT Kenya) program, supported the implementation of the horticulture guidelines.
The four-year program (2020-2024) aims to secure a lasting improvement in the capacity of all stakeholders to adapt to evolving sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS),commercial,social,and environmental requirements for local,regional,and international markets.
COLEAD director general, Jeremy Knops, emphasised that the responsibility for disseminating and implementing the guidelines lies with the professionals in the horticulture industry.
“Therefore, professionals from the sector should disseminate and help in its implementation and ensure it is updated regularly,” said Mr Knops.
The NExT Kenya program coordinator, Dr Kedera Chagema, urged stakeholders to read and adopt the practices outlined in the guidelines, as they were developed through extensive research and discussions.
“Full implementation of the good practice guides will ensure compliance with requirements thereby enhancing the competitiveness of Kenya’s horticultural sector in the local, regional and international markets,“ said Dr Kedera.
The taskforce believes that these comprehensive guidelines could also be adopted by other countries in the region to improve their horticulture industries.