KENYA – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has encouraged traders and farmers of fresh produce to continue with their agricultural activities in bid to ensure continued supply of food in the country during these unprecedented times, as the world battles with the fight against the spread of the COVID-19.

Speaking in a state address on enhanced measures in response to Covid-19 on Monday April, 6 April he stated, “I encourage traders and farmers in fresh food produce to continue with their agricultural activities, so as to ensure continued supply of the farm produce to our market.”

In his address President Kenyatta spelt out a raft of measures aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19 that included cessation of all movement by road, rail or air in and out of Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Counties of Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa for 21 days.

The in and out of movement order on Nairobi metropolis took effect on Monday 6 April at 7pm, while in Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi on Wednesday 8 April.

However, movement of food supplies and other cargo will continue as normal during the declared containment period through road, railway and air with only one driver and designated assistants.

“Any cargo-carrying vehicle or vessel shall be charged to a single driver and designated assistants; all of whom shall be designated as such in writing by the owner or operator of the said vehicle or vessel with reference to that vehicle or vessel,” added President Kenyatta.

Okisegere Ojepat, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium Kenya (FPC-K) reveals that, in a scheme approved by the Ministry of Trade, the trucks ferrying the produce have been given stickers for their vehicles – a Fresh Produce Vehicle Pass with the government coat of arms – to allow them to travel even at night.

On matters pertaining to export of fresh produce to the European Market, Mr. Ojepat clarified that the exercise is still on going with Europe now loosening its import requirements on fresh fruit and vegetables in order to draw more supplies.

“All the crops we have managed to keep transporting have cleared effortlessly at the other end, and Europe is now introducing a Green Lane scheme to further fast track the importing and transport of fresh foods – as its own fresh food supplies collapse, most notably in Spain, which is suddenly without its migrant agricultural labour force from north Africa,” he stated.

Despite the export exercise still on going, it has been met with challenges such as air cargo carrying capacity plummeting from 1400 tonnes a week to transport just 360 tonnes.

Mr.Ojepat partly attributes this to the strict regulations set by South Africa stating, “Most of these flights used to head to South Africa full of cargo from Europe, then stop at Nairobi on the way back to fill up with fresh produce for the return leg.”

“But South Africa is now detaining cargo crew for 21 days as soon as they land, meaning firms can only fly out to Kenya empty. Some, like CargoLux, have just stopped. Others have reduced the number of cargo flights each week,” he added.