Albert Stockell, the MD of SGS Kenya Limited addressing delegates during the launch.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, the big day was here, and a yearlong wait was finally over. On 24th September 2014 Laico regency saw a host of delegates among them Dr. Johnson Irungu who represented The Minister for Agriculture, KEPHIS and HCDA acting directors, Dr. Esther Kimani and Mr. Zakayo Magara respectively trooping in to a gala that showcased the launch of SGS pesticide Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) Laboratory, the only one of its kind in East and Central Africa.
SGS is the global leader in inspection, testing, verification and certification services with more than 80,000 employees. SGS has presence in over 160 countries and operates more than 850 laboratories globally. Setting up a MRL testing facility in Kenya is a leap in the right direction owing to the fact that the recent quality issues that have gripped the horticultural industry in Kenya is a force to reckon with.
This has prompted drastic counter measures that are geared to foster adherence to the global food safety standards. "It is with these quality issues that SGS Kenya on top of the numerous testing services that we already offer, made a deliberate decision to set up a high end MRL lab to support the horticultural industry needs", sentiments from Albert Stockell, the MD SGS Kenya Limited.
Initially the sample testing process was tedious and in most cases took a very long process before the actual reception of the results. This was attributed to the fact that some the tests were taken abroad to be scrutinized and examined. These and many more problems were cited by many fresh produce exporters as contributing to the stalemate that has bottlenecked this industry.
He continues, "Initially, we took the samples and performed part of the analysis in Kenya and subcontracted the remaining part to SGS overseeas accredited labs in Germany and Turkey, but the logistics and time involved in sending samples oversees was complicated. It was difficult to keep samples at the required sub zero temperature while in transit in order to maintain sample integrity if one is to get reliable and undisputed lab results."
SGS team had to select equipments which had the sensitivity they needed to achieve the low MRL requirements while taking note that the limits would continue to be lowered over time.
Albert ascertains that investing in such kind of equipment is not just for the current EU limits but also for possible lower limits that might be expected in the future. "We made deliberate decisions to invest in the most expensive equipment but most importantly it has the most sensitive configuration known in the market today with a capability to cover up to 1,075 compounds and that all pesticide compounds tested can be detected and quantified at below 5 parts per billion which is almost twice as low as the European Union regulated limits", the MD says.
The Kenyan government has been on the forefront to exercise cooperation and coordination that is fundamental towards the success of the horticultural industry.
Having supported the once conceived idea a year ago into what stands out neatly set up at the coast, it is evident that good tidings will come our way as a country. "What the industry is going through right now is crucial towards the ultimate economic development as a country. As stakeholders in this, we welcome the move that SGS has made in technology advancement for us. This will be a vital tool in our commandeering our tribulations regarding the quality as cited by European Union", Mr. Zakayo Magara, said.
In Albert's final remarks, he was very clear that the facility is there to serve the horticultural industry and all stakeholders with technical excellence and putting integrity behind the reported results.