Kenya’s horticulture sector registers decline in export earnings despite rise in volume

KENYA – Kenya’s horticulture sector exhibited exemplary performance in the first half of the year in terms of volumes, but value dropped by Kshs. 6.3 billion (US$58.3m) due to suppressed prices at the international market.

Volume of fruits, vegetable and flowers between January and June 2021, stood at 191,210,134 kgs, a rise from 160,931,659 kilogrammes traded in the previous corresponding period, earning Ksh77.2 billion (US$714m) from Ksh83.5 billion (US$773m) in 2020.

The volume increased by 30,278,475 Kg, according to the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), mainly from fruits and vegetables.

During the period under review, fruits export earnings dipped to Kshs. 12 billion (US$111m) from Kshs. 12.5 billion (US$115.7m), while flower export earnings fetched Kshs. 50 billion (US$462m) compared to Kshs. 53.7 billion (US$497m) for the same period last year.

However, vegetable earnings rose to Kshs. 15.1 billion (US$139.7m) from Kshs. 12.2 billion (US$112.9m).

HCD Director Benjamin Tito confirmed that interceptions, also contributed to low trading over the half year period and that last year the international market prices were high due to COVID-19 disruptions on air freight.

Tito said that Quarantine pests especially Thaumatotibia Leucotreta (False Codling Moth – FCM being detected in exported consignments was one of the major reasons leading to produce interception and notification of non-compliance by EU market.

FCM interceptions in 2018 were 38 from 90,785 consignments, 39 in 2019 from 81,455 consignments, in 2020, 34 interceptions from 88,241 consignments and 27 interceptions in 2021. June alone had 8 interceptions.

Due to the rise of rejection of consignments, Tito indicated that, “We will be no longer doing random tests in shipments living the country at the airport but in the farms where we can advise the farmers accordingly.”

He further revealed that other measures to ensure compliance to import requirements will further be enhanced such as risk profiling at the farm level, follow-up and undertaking correction action for noncompliance.

With most of the consignment interceptions and increased notifications due to Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) coming from the European Union (EU), the government has indicated that it will be exploring for new markets for horticulture produce in non-traditional regions such as Russia, Asia, Central and South Africa.

“We are also diversifying our product range mainly vegetables, cabbages, carrots, onions passion fruits to the regional markets like Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania in order to mitigate some of the challenges the country is experiencing,” said Agriculture Food Directorate (AFA) Director General Kello Harsama.

Horticulture sub-sector which comprises vegetables, flowers and fruits among other aromatic plants employs over 6.5 million Kenyans directly and indirectly.

The total area under horticulture is estimated at 496,062 Ha with production of 7.9 million Metric Tonnes. The value of domestic horticulture was estimated at Ksh. 68.5 billion in 2019.

The total value of fresh horticultural exports in 2020 was Ksh. 150.2 billion (US$1.39m) from 313,668 MT of produce compared to Ksh.143 billion (US$1.32m) in 2019 from 328,335 MT.

Flowers accounted for Ksh. 107.5 billion (US$1 billion) (72 percent) from 62,575 MT while vegetables and fruits accounted for KSH. 24.2 billion (US$224m) (16 percent) and Ksh.18.8 billion (US$174m) (12 percent) respectively from 105,060 MT.

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