Kenya will start to export French beans and snow peas to the US in November.The US Department of Agriculture through the American Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Aphis), s gave the approval last month after conducting risk analyses on the products.
The new approval will expand the country’s current list of fresh produce exports to America which include baby carrots, runner beans, baby corn, fresh green beans and shelled beans.
The US body demanded that exporters uphold strict hygienic standards while washing, processing and packing the products.Particularly the French beans must be shredded or cut into small pieces of two centimeters to expose any pests while the snow peas are required to be dipped in chlorinated water to disinfect them of any pathogens.
The exports will have to be packed in facilities approved and registered by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) and be accompanied by a certificate to prove that they have been tested and found free of pests.
Kephis managing director James Onsando said the next step will now be training producers and exporters to ensure that they meet the requirements set by the US body.
“The Kenyan French beans and snow peas are among the best in the world in terms of quality. It would make a boom for the country if producers and exporters manage the process well,” Mr. Onsando said while opening this year’s annual workshop on the application of commercial standards on fruits and vegetable in Eastern Africa at the Kephis headquarters.
The conference was organized by USAid and local regulatory bodies such as Horticultural Development Authority, Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya and ministry of Agriculture to boost competitiveness in agribusiness. The workshop brought together players in the horticultural sector from all over Africa and other parts of the world. It was convened with the aim of helping local players and neighbouring countries raise standards in production and distribution while increasing international trade to boost returns for farmers and processors.
According to data from USAid Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness project, export of fresh produce, earned Kenya about Sh91.4 billion in 2011, an achievement the players attributed to the confidence at the international market in Kenyan products.
French beans contributed about 29 per cent (Sh. 4 billion) of the country’s total vegetable earnings last year which reached sh. 13 billion.
The new development is likely to improve the production of French beans in the country which is currently the largest produced vegetable in the country at over 120,000 tonnes per annum.
America has been growing its position as an importer of Kenyan horticultural; products and canned vegetables over years and the new development is likely to increase the country’s exports by a big margin.
However, fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya Chief Executive Stephen Mbithi said the players should first exhaust other markets since exporting to America was expensive because of its position in terms of distance.
By CHARLES WOKABI