KENYA – The European Union (EU) has reviewed its policy on the maximum residue levels (MRLs) for several pesticides allowed on horticulture imports from Kenya by lowering the permissible limits.

According to an update by The East African, the new MRL limits have been set at 0.01 milligrammes per kilogramme (mg/kg) against the international standard that sets an MRL level of 2.0 mg/kg.

In addition, exporters and their EU importing agencies will be required to pay US$1,212 per consignment for inspection.

For beans and peas, the produce will be subjected to 10 per cent sampling up from five per cent starting in January.

The European Union is the leading importer of horticulture produce particularly from Kenya and the stringent EU regulations could result in significant decline of exports.

The move comes soon after the EU put Kenya back on the blacklist of countries using high levels of pesticides.

Repeated failure to adhere to the set limits on toxin residue often result in license cancellation.

This year, three Kenyan firms were locked out of the electronic certification system domiciled at the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service blocking them from exporting to the bloc.

The EU has set different levels for each country. For Uganda, 50 per cent of chillies entering the bloc must be subjected to sampling after the country failed to comply to EU warnings due to high case of interceptions of chillies with false codling moth.

While the East African nations have been silent on the EU’s decision to lower the maximum residue levels, several countries including Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil, India, the US and others have protested and gone ahead to present a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation.

“We are witnessing an increase in interceptions of consignments because of the new regulations. The government needs to join other countries to lobby against these regulations to protect the horticulture industry,” Hosea Machuki, Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya chief executive told The East African.

Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County Woman Representative Gladys Shollei has tabled a petition in parliament seeking a ban on chemicals importation on the basis that the volume of imported pesticides, herbicides and fungicides had more than doubled in four years from 6,400 tonnes in 2015 to 15,600 tonnes in 2018.

“We can’t avoid using pesticides when production is on the rise but we need to produce responsibly and comply with regulations,” said Ojepati Okesegere, Fresh Producers Consortium of Kenya chief executive.