KENYA – Efforts by the national government to enhance safety for commodities destined for export markets yesterday received a financial boost from the European Union (EU).
The union has disbursed a Sh1.4 billion grant under the four-year Standards and Market Access Programme (SMAP) to assist in enhancing quality and compliance with standards for exported food products.
EU Delegation Head of Co-operation Eric Habers explained that the programme will be administered by three State agencies.
These are the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Plant Inspectorate Services and Department of Veterinary Services.
He said the agencies would receive technical and financial support to develop standards and quality regulations and to provide market certification to ensure conformity to market requirements.
“Of the grant, Sh700 million will be committed to the purchase of the state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to carry out tests to ensure quality and safety of Kenyan products,” said Habers during the launch of the programme at a Nairobi hotel yesterday.
The equipment will help the agencies carry out more accurate tests on a wider range of food samples.
He added, “In order for Kenya to expand its export markets and basket in addition to enhancing the competitiveness of its products worldwide, quality and safety requirements have to be respected.
This is certainly the case for food products – whether of animal or plant origin, especially if these products are to be exported to markets in Asia and America from Europe.”
The high food safety standards that EU is imposing are often perceived as too stringent and as barriers to trade. However, the EU chief stated the conditions are dictated by serious concerns for health and safety of consumers and environment.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei said in a statement read on his behalf by Administrative Secretary Philomena Koech that the aim of the SMAP is to strengthen Kenya’s regulatory framework and the country’s capacity for certification of animal and plants-based products.
The financial boost comes about two months after six companies exporting fresh produce were suspended for allegedly shipping contaminated produce to the EU market.
Kenya exports commodities worth Sh100 billion every year to the EU market but of late the latter has threatened to ban local exports if Government does not demonstrate willingness to tame the rogue companies.
Koskei has confirmed the Government last month submitted to the EU a detailed plan on how it intends to deal with such exporters.
The unscrupulous traders have been exporting mostly peas, beans, flowers and fruits with high levels of pesticide residues and presence of harmful organisms despite the government’s efforts to remove from the horticulture value-chain non-complying producers and exporters.