Stakeholders in the horticulture export sub-sector last week converged at KEPHIS Headquarters to discuss pertinent issues affecting beans and peas in pods exports to the European Union (EU) market. The EU has placed Kenya on the radar as one of the countries with 10 per cent increased Maximum Residual Levels (MRLs), which are the set legal levels of concentration of pesticide residues in or on food.
In 2017 for instance, Kenya’s fresh produce to the EU was intercepted 29 times due to harmful organisms in a crackdown that makes it difficult for Kenya to be removed from the European Union’s quality watch list.
Stakeholders in the sector met during a one day awareness and consultative forum with 68 representatives from the Kenyan export industry among them Rozzika, Sun Ripe Limited, Home Fresh, Vegpro, Keitt Fresh, Interveg, Greenster Exporters, Sacco Fresh, Summer Fresh, Sian Exports, Athi Farm Exporters, among others.
The meeting aimed at creating awareness on Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) notifications and rejections, MRLs setting and pesticide residues analysis, food safety issues, pests and diseases and the need for scouting, all these in beans and peas in pods.
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Packaging of peas ready for export. (Photo: Courtesy)
KEPHIS MD. Dr. Esther Kimani urged the exporters to take initiative and self-regulate themselves by understanding and complying with the rules and regulations of the international markets by ensuring that all those in the value chain such as farmers and brokers adhere to the target market standards.
KEPHIS GM for Phytosanitary Services Dr. Isaac Macharia called on the exporters to safeguard the EU market as it is the major market for Kenyan flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs, more specifically for beans and peas with pods. He also urged the exporters to work as one unit with KEPHIS and other exporters in the beans and peas sector to ensure their produce is safe for human consumption.
“The EU is one really important market that we have to protect. We need to understand its rules and regulations, check on what we have not been doing right in order to fully comply with this market’s requirements; let us work as a team because if one exporter fails to comply, all of us are affected,” he said.
KEPHIS General Manager for Quality Assurance Mr. Simeon Kibet urged all exporters to be cautious on the food production process before release to the market to ensure they are free from harmful chemicals.
“The use of harmful pesticides, pests and diseases are the major factors that lead to interceptions and rejections of Kenyan produce in the international markets as they pose great risks to the human body, animals and the environment,” he said.
The exporters were informed about identifying and managing pests and diseases of peas and beans as it is a major phytosanitary (plant health) requirement that produce to international markets should be free of harmful organisms and diseases since these will negatively affect the quality, marketability, quantity and market access of produce. Some of the pests of beans and peas with pods discussed were the bean fly, cut worms, black bean aphid, caterpillars, the Fall Army Worm, African boll worm, leaf miner, thrips and white flies which affect different parts of beans and peas with pods.
To manage the insect pests without use of harmful chemicals, exporters were urged to use traps such as colored sticky traps, pheromone lure food bait and light to curb damage caused to plants by insect pests. They were also advised to ensure field sanitation, practice crop rotation, use of bio-control, bio-pesticides, deep ploughing, to monitor weather patterns and use appropriate pesticides.
The forum was also informed on common diseases affecting beans and peas in pods such as rust, lesions/spots, powdery mildew, Downy mildew, Fusarium rot, White mold, Botrytis, Bacterial blight and spots on beans and pods. On managing of the diseases, they were urged to use certified seeds, do soil testing, use resistant cultivars, ensure proper crop spacing to enhance aeration, field sanitation and good drainage, avoid fertilization especially using nitrogen, use appropriate pesticides, and monitor weather patterns and field sanitation.
Moreover, they were advised to regularly and systematically conduct visual inspection commonly known as scouting to identify insect pests, diseases and other problems.
To meet the stringent EU market requirements, the Kenyan government has established measures such as conducting regular checks on status of exporters, risk profiling of companies and suspension of non-compliant exporters.
Through KEPHIS, the government has put in place a monitoring program which collects and conducts sample analysis on beans and peas with pods checking on pesticide residues and heavy metals. Follow up audits to check on harmful molecules are also conducted through KEPHIS enhanced laboratory capacity through regular staff training and purchase of modern high end pesticide residue equipment.