Global horticultural bonanza lifts Kenya’s earnings

An annual global horticultural bonanza has assisted fresh produce exporters and farmers diversify markets while meeting face to face with buyers at a time when dwindling export markets are taking a toll on farmers, exporters and the economy.

Dubbed Fruit Logistica, the annual trade fair has grown to become the most prestigious fresh produce event with this year’s event held at Berlin Germany having attracted over 2,600 exhibitors from 84 countries and more than 62,000 trade visitors from 141 countries.

The trade fair and its location is particularly important to Kenya due to the value the country attaches to the horticultural sector and to the European Union market.

Kenya earned Sh93 billion from export of horticultural produce with the EU accounting for up to 80 per cent of the fruit and vegetable sales and 42 per cent of flower exports.

Of the 62,000 visitors at the trade fair were tens of exporters from Kenya. As exporters secure stable and reliable markets abroad, the ripple effects are felt by smallholder farmers through pent up demand. Some of the exporters included Interveg Exports Limited, Wamu Investments Limited, Phyma Fresh Produce Limited, Kandia Fresh Produce Limited, Athi Farm Exporters Limited, Keitt Exporters Limited, Vert Limited and Top Mark Growers. The exporters have direct contact with smallholder farmers in certain parts of Kenya like Eastern and have created a ready and stable market for the farmers.

“I met my co-existing customers and discussed on our services improvement. After interacting, two of our customers decided to sign a supply contract for a period of one year both peas and beans (10 tons per week),” Eunice Mutune from Athi Farm Exporters said.

Capturing players in the entire horticultural value chain, from packaging, labeling transport and storage, the exhibition brings together players across the world to discuss industry dynamics while allowing buyers and sellers to meet one on one.

Buyers get to describe their preferences while sellers get to exhibit their produce while explaining how they are adhering to industry requirements like the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) threshold. Some of the produce on display at the trade fair included offered at the exhibition are: Fresh fruit and vegetable, dried fruits and nuts while the services like packaging, labeling, transport and logistical systems, produce handling and storage, press and media, computer and internet solution and cultivation systems were also showcased.

“We managed to meet with most of our existing client’s and get contacts of over 10 potential clients. Out of the potential client’s we have already started trading with two of them and we are hopeful for a long term relationship. We are also targeting by the end of the year to diversify into 2 different products that we can add to our current basket of exports,” said Stephen Wachira from Wamu Investments Limited.

The exhibition couldn’t have come at a better time for Kenyan exporters whose produce have been put on a strict scrutiny after its vegetables were found to have contained traces of banned chemical which causes cancer.

As a result of the ban over fifth of Kenya’s vegetable exports entering the European market were rejected. Since the directive, 10 percent of some Kenya’s produce like Snow peas and French beans has to undergo mandatory testing before being accepted to the EU.

“We held extensive discussions which involved giving assurance to our markets following the mandatory 10 percent Maximum Residue Levels (MLR) testing. They were fears among Kenyan buyers on the trend the Kenyan business had taken and with the lengthy procedures of testing several of them had found alternatives from countries like Guatemala and Zimbabwe,” said David Mulwa-Kandia Fresh Produce Limited.