KENYA –  Kenya and the European Union (EU) have signed a deal for the implementation a US$4.1 million agricultural project that seeks to boost horticulture exports.

The funding will be used for the implementation of the Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP), an initiative by the European Union seeking to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the East African Community.

The initiative seeks to enable small-holder farmers gain access to markets and increase inter-regional trade by enhancing the competitiveness of the bloc’s export both in the regional and international market.

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Chris Kiptoo, revealed that under the agreement, the EU will provide about 424 million shillings ($4.1 million) inform of a grant.

He further added “Kenya will receive assistance to ensure that its agricultural produce meet the stringent safety standards for the EU and East African Community (EAC) markets.”

The project will be implemented by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) agency.

The program will support small scale farmers from 12 counties across the country who will receive capacity building to grow horticultural produce that meets international sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.

Mr Kiptoo observed that some of the value chains identified include green beans, peas, mango and passion fruits.

“Currently some of our fruits are unable to access the lucrative EU market due to high residual levels of pesticides,” he noted.

In this effect, the government will support the project by strengthening services of the Kenya Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in certifying commodities meant for export with an aim of enhancing market access in the EU and EAC markets.

KEPHIS is responsible for quality assurance of agricultural inputs and produce to prevent adverse impact on the economy, the environment and human health.

Agriculture sector accounts for about 30% of the bloc’s GDP which is the highest exporting sector to the European Union.

Kenya earned US$1.25 billion (Ksh125 billion) from horticulture exports in 10 months to October 2018 .

The main horticultural produce exported from Kenya include orchids lemons, grapes, oranges and pineapples, Spinach, cabbages, broccoli and kales into the European market in Netherlands, Britain, Belgium and France.