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Deal sealed to supply farm products to UK, Dutch supermarkets

September 2, 2013. The direct marketing of Kenyan farm produce in the European markets has led to the growth of agriculture as a business.

Retail outlets in Europe are increasingly buying from local suppliers as demand for Kenyan products rises.

Recently, a group of farmers in Siongiroi and Mara secured a deal with leading supermarkets such as Albert Heijn chain in the Netherlands to supply avocados. Over 300 farmers have since set aside half-acres each to grow 80 avocados trees funded by the Dutch Embassy.

“An existing market attracts committed farmers and motivates producers to invest. It also makes it easier to meet market specifications,” reads a report by Agri-Profocus, an agricultural think-tank.

Sainsbury, a leading retail outlet in Britain, has invested in the production of sukuma wiki (kales) in Central Kenya that meet its market specifications. Failure to meet specifications has held back Kenyan products in the international market.

The certified avocado trees are sold to the farmers at Sh500 each which is half the market price. There have already been complaints that some farmers have started selling uncertified seedlings creating doubt on their acceptance in the Europe market.

In the first half of the year, Kenyan fruit exports grew by 1,000 tonnes earning the country Sh2.1 billion. Apart from avocados, Kenya also exports pineapples, passion and mangoes. Vegetable exports increased by 33 per cent to earn the country Sh11 billion in the six months.

This is a welcome substitute to the traditional exports of flowers and tea which have been hurt by Euro and Egypt crises.

International markets have proved to be more lucrative for fruits and vegetables.

Exporters have to be careful when sourcing from farmers because they have to bear losses associated with produce rejected in the market.

Last year the European Union banned the export of vegetables treated with a pesticide known as dimethoate that is said to be harmful to humans. The pesticide is popular with Kenyan vegetable farmers who insisted for a time to continue using the drug. Exporters stopped buying from them.

The government is keen to create jobs through agriculture and is offering interest-free loans to youth to set up greenhouses and poultry farming.

By Charles Wokabi, Sunday Nation

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