The government has set aside Sh1.5 billion to cushion farmers and exporters of fresh produce under a stimulus programme.
The funding seeks to ensure continuous production of quality yield and maintain the supply chain for both inputs and produce.
The head of horticulture at the Ministry of Agriculture Joshua Oluyali said they have already listed their intentions for the funds.
“The ministry will mobilise and capacity build producers on good agronomic including responsible use of pest control products and other value chain actors into production and marketing clusters. The clusters will be based on wards and each ward will have one aggregation centre which will serve as a central point where production and marketing activities will be coordinated,” he said.
Additionally, the ministry plans to provide quality infrastructure and other facilities at the aggregation centres and establish pest-free, or low pest prevalent areas to improve compliance to produce standards in the international markets.
There are also plans to build three hot water treatment facilities in Kibwezi, Mwea and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as well as a fumigation facility at JKIA. These facilities are geared towards enabling the country to completely eliminate presence of pests in export produce.
Other plans include rehabilitation of cold rooms at the six horticulture handling facilities belonging to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) spread in major horticulture producing counties.
Also in the pipeline is the establishment of a revolving fund at each aggregation centre for supporting operations, provision of inputs and services, equipment and facilities on credit to value chain actors. This will cushion the horticulture actors whose business has been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It will also ensure continuous production of adequate, quality horticultural produce for both the domestic and export markets is maintained.
The government’s move has come at a time when the European Union (EU) has funded a project to promote competitiveness and market access for Kenya’s fresh produce.
The Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) Kenya is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the government and private sector.
Additionally, MARKUP Kenya seeks to promote food safety especially along the target value chains.
It will implemented in 12 counties and focuses on French beans, snow peas, macadamia, groundnuts, mangoes, chilli, herbs and spices value chains.
Counties which will benefit include Nakuru, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Machakos, and Makueni.
MARKUP Kenya National Coordinator Maina Karuiru noted there is need to consider the cost implication when testing for maximum residual levels (MRLs) is raised.
“Many companies have to pay for the testing cost, and produce stays at the airports in the EU airports for longer, awaiting testing,” Mr Karuiru noted.
According to the Agriculture ministry, the horticulture industry is currently facing numerous challenges including regular listing of fresh produce due to the presence of high levels of pesticide residues and pathogen contamination.
Another challenge is the presence of live insects on fruits, flowers and vegetables while lack of adequate cold chain facilities has often compromised the quality of fresh produce.
Inadequate liquidity for the horticulture industry for provision of quality inputs to producers and services by other small and medium enterprises was also listed as another challenge.
Last week, stakeholders in the horticulture sector held a consultative meeting to discuss these issues and seek a way forward.
Participants at the meeting were drawn from various sectors including government, private sector, exporters of fresh produce and development organisations.
The meeting had been convened by the Horticulture Crops Directorate.
Participants emphasised on the need for cooperation between the private and public sectors in ensuring the fresh produce industry meets the required standards.
They called for training for farmers on the use of the right chemicals to enhance food safety for produce sold both locally and internationally.
They also called for coordination between the national and county governments, especially in flow of information on market requirements, since extension services are devolved.