Mace Food, chilli exporter based in Eldoret is drying and crushing the crop into powder form before packaging it for export in a bid to manage strict measures that European Union market has placed on fresh produce that farmers and exporters alike have to meet before their produce are accepted in the international market.
According to the Kenya Horticulture Council, only fresh produce grown in a controlled environment such as in greenhouses and under agro-nets will be allowed for export as from yesterday.
Besides chilli, other crops affected include tomatoes, vegetables and corn. This is as a result of the armyworm and false codling moth which was first felt last year while the armyworm, which mainly affects the maize crop, hit the country in 2016.
“We are aware of the latest stringed measures on export of fresh produce to EU markets but we do not feel much hit because all along we have encouraged our farmers to dry their chillis before supplying us in order to even earn more besides easing our work,” said Japheth Tanui, a senior agronomist, Mace Foods.
“For a kilo of dry red chilli without stalks a farmer will earn Sh130 while wet chilli without stalks will fetch Sh50, we advise farmers in this regard to dry their produce in the sun to attain a moisture content of 15 per cent rather than supply wet chilli with a moisture content of 80 per cent and earn less.”
Mace Foods works with their over 7,000 contracted farmers from the initial of planting to the harvesting stage. In this, they give free chilli seeds to farmers and offer advice on best crop management practices.
Currently they export between 20 and 30 tonnes of powdered chilli per day to Germany, Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Korean countries and the USA.
“Our farmers are not affected as we still retain our export markets as before. We know some of them are growing their crops in open fields while other in greenhouses but once they follow our advice all their produce are bought,” said Tanui.
The EU strict rules have so far seen the number of firms allowed to export chilli and vegetable to the European Union reduced to four from 15 with the fear that this may further lower the revenue from the horticulture export that had gone up.
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The value of domestic horticulture production increased by 41 per cent last year compared with 2016 on account of good prices.
Data from the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) indicates production value rose from Sh216bn in 2016 to Sh305bn last year.
The total value of horticultural produce exported in 2017 increased from Sh101.5bn in 2016 to Sh115bn last year.