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Kenya: Chemical ban hits vegetable exports to the EU market

More than a fifth of Kenya’s vegetable exports to the European market were rejected in January after they were found to contain traces of a banned chemical, which is said to cause cancer. The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya says only 4,000 tonnes of exports were received, 1,000 tonnes lower than normal.

More losses are anticipated after the EU rejected Kenya’s requests to lift the ban at least until May. “Several companies and farmers were de-listed. We exported only 4,000 tonnes, in January,” said chief executive Stephen Mbithi.

The association officials together with those of other relevant agencies were this week in Brussels, Belgium to beseech European Union bureaucrats to accept the fresh produce.

While the meeting resolved to increase inspections within Kenya and at European entry points, the limits remained in force. The officials are expected back in Nairobi on Monday.

The EU regulation authorities had last year directed that Dimethoate, the banned chemical, should not exceed 0.02 parts per million.

“The minimum residue level dropped nearly 90 per cent to 0.02 parts per million. This saw more interceptions,” Dr Mbithi added.

The EU accounts for up to 80 per cent of Kenya’s fruit and vegetable sales and 42 per cent of flower exports.

The Ministry of Agriculture had voluntarily banned the chemical before the High Court lifted the ban imposed on alphadime and dimeton pesticides sold and distributed by Orion East Africa Ltd.

The government, however, failed to provide alternatives to the chemical which is popular with small growers. Agriculture PS Romano Kiome accused farmers around Nairobi for not heeding the advice.

“Some farms are evading scrutiny. We are investigating how these crooks got into the system. Our advice is that Dimethoate should not be sprayed on vegetables,” Dr Kiome said.

According to Richard Fox, director for sustainable development at Finlays, a major producer and exporter, the rate of interceptions had doubled at all EU’s points of entry.

“At Finlays we follow a strict trade practice of biological pests management techniques. HCDA (Horticultural Crop Development Authority) should enforce discipline for growing and buying Kenyan produce,” said Mr Fox.

The Horticultural Crop Development Authority last week warned exporters to the EU market to beware of more robust safety checks starting this year.


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