A growing Kenyan middle class keen on their health and with an affinity for spending is driving the cultivation of horticultural produce especially by small holder farmers. Data from Bridgenet Africa, a not for profit Agricultural Organization working with smallholder farmers in Africa shows that 2013, demand for horticultural commodities from fruits, vegetables and pulses had gone up by upto 50 percent in three years.
The urban population has particularly been driving that demand. Improved farm gate price as a result of the high demand has improved incentivizing smallholder farmers to return to horticulture cultivation.
In the export market, demand is equally impressive. More than 150,000 farmers exported fresh produce to the European Union market last year, which is 10 per cent of all horticulture farmers. This generated Sh96 billion in revenue last year.
But just as cultivation and consumption has risen, so has new threats. Major threats to fruits and vegetables including the fruitflies, leaf miners, Bacterial Wilt and dried fruit beetle have sapped life out of these produce and deprived farmers their much needed income.
The amount of rejected fresh produce by supermarkets and hotels coming from smallholder farmers has risen to worrying rates even as demand for the produce soars. A city supermarket is said to have canceled over 400 kgs of cabbages and avocados after the vegetables were found to have ‘white tiny moving objects’ while the fruits had’ black marks that were unattractive to customers.’
In the export market, Kenya relies heavily on the European market for its export. The EU forms 38 percent market of all produce exported from Kenya. But concern has been rife on the safety of the produce coming from Kenya. The country has therefore been on the EU radar since 2011 after being subjected to the 10 per cent rule for high residual levels. Most recently, there are four other products said to have noisome organisms such as fruit flies, leaf miners and thrips that risk losing the market, including mangoes, two types of flowers-gypsophila and eryngium and karella (bitter gourd).
According to the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), five out of 200 exporters have had their produce intercepted for non compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) conditions including failure to monitor the produce for possible diseases.
Yet these diseases and pests sometimes become hard to detect and majority of the contemporary pesticides haven’t managed to fight them. Other pests are known to create favourable breeding grounds that attract a host of pests from other areas. Leafminer for example, a small, active, black and yellow fly that punctures leaves to feed on exuding sap, and which affect virtually all vegetables and fruits, delves into the leaf of a plant sucking the sap while releasing a substance that then attracts other pests to the plant. It is the latter that does the ultimate damage. This explains why farmers have struggled to treat one crop pest and still loose the crop.
Notable pest control products in the horticultural sector include Tricel 48 EC that has been effective in controlling aphids and thrips. It kills by contact ingestion, vapours action and has ovicidal activities. It can also be used as a soil drench due to its vapour activity. It is however recommended for early application so as to keep minimum residues.
Lambdastar 5E.C Emulsifiable concentrate on the other hand is a broad spectrum contact insecticide for effective control of whiteflies. It is a pyrethroid insecticide for the control of biting and sucking insect pests in crops.
It has a quick knockdown and stomach and repellence effect through contact, residual and stomach activity and therefore stopping pest damage to crops immediately. Emalaxyl another fungicide controls late blight in most horticultural crops. When sprayed to the crops, it is evenly distributed in leaves therefore controlling fungal growth and reproduction from within the plant.