Kenya horticulture industry will continue strong

Kenya horticulture industry will continue strong

The success of every farm banks on the management. Daniel Agawo the General Manager of Mboga Tuu an agricultural farm situated in Isinya, Kajiado County has ably steered the firm from inception to its glowing status.

A company that operated as a briefcase exporter, for close to 3 decades, started their first farm in 2008 after realizing that the EU market would put stringent conditions for exporters. They are now a leading exporter of ethnic line vegetables and fruits to United Kingdom. They have four 100 Acres unit farms named Isinya II, III IV and Kitengela with several Crop Managers as well as numerous workers. To shed more light on how the horticulture industry is performing, we interviewed Daniel Agawo and this is what he had to say.

Tell us about your journey in the field of Horticulture?

I began my career in flower Farms then moved to agro-chemical companies and later shifted to fresh vegetables before moving to this farm in 2008. In total I have 19 years in this field; eight years in Mboga Tuu. I have a background in horticulture, with additional business management training (The association of business executives)

What are some of the dynamics facing the horticulture industry?

Awareness of what is being consumed is increasingly becoming a concern with customers, which could be due to various health related issues and environmental concerns. This has made the industry change a lot and has brought in the issue of traceability to trace back the produce to the source.

The traceability part entails more than just the source of produce but also includes records of cultivation, spraying, every single operation done in the block and more so customer complaints have to be addressed within 24 hours. In simple words, it is to do with the block history

There is a big concern of the need to take care of the environment; what we use in the farm, especially the sprays and ethical part on people working with you. One has to adhere to both local and international labor standards such as no child labour, no forced labour and the working conditions should be healthy.

The issue of compliance with Minimum Residue Levels (MRLs) for pesticides is also a concern in the industry. This is more so with edible podded beans and peas. The need to take care of the MRLs has led to adoption of IPM methods of controlling pests and diseases hence reduction in use of chemicals

How is the Export Market?

It has become very strict to export food items to Europe since you require plant health (Phytosanitary) certification by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to show that you comply with the importing country’s requirements. Produce for export has to meet standards that are customer related, no foreign materials in a produce such as harmful chemicals or quarantine organisms is issued with phytosanitary certificate.

Before, KEPHIS would issue a manual phytosanitary certificate to accompany the produce but it was abused. This led to the development of the Electronic Certification System (ECS) where if one is registering some consignment for export in Kenya, the same phyto details are scanned and sent to the point of entry of the importing country. The said phyto has also lots of security features. Security, delays in schedules or failing to meet delivery time lines and errors in documentation are some of the major concerns that the system addresses.

What are some of the international Standards that exporters should be certified?

They are many; the universal one for one to export to the EU is the basic GlobalGap. Some are specific to Customer -like the TESCO NATURE CHOICE (TN10), while others are Environmental related such as LEAF(Linking Environment and Farming) and others are social standards such as ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative). ETI is basically concerned with the workers welfare; number of working hours, no harsh or inhumane treatment to workers, working conditions being safe and hygienic, no use of child labor and such. TESCO/and LEAF enforce care of the environment while we go around our business of farming. This ensures that the Earth’s natural resources and beauty is protected while we do our farming activities

Adherence to Good Agricultural Practices is crucial in farming and that is why to export the farm has to be GlobalGAP certified. Global GAP encompasses the ETI and TESCO while The White Rose Foundation incorporates LEAF and ETI. The White Rose Foundation member’s produce is bought at a higher price; the extra cost is to improve workers welfare.

Farm/Field to Fork (F2F) is another standard that is more on traceability. It defines business rules and minimum requirements to be followed when designing and implementing a traceability system. It’s clustered around roles and responsibilities for each step of the traceability process.

Tell us about the bans that have been affecting export produce?

Chilies are being intercepted now and then because of presence of False Codling Moth (FSM) in the produce, but farmers have put in measures to control them. Fruit fly is havoc in avocados, Mangoes and Karella which have led to interceptions. French beans mostly from small scale farmers have also experienced restriction because of MRls for pesticides not being in compliance. Apparently, even the flower industry is equally under some threat as FCM is getting in, Leaf miners in Basil etc

How is the Brexit impact to the industry?

It is a process that has not been ratified yet and it will take up to two years. Currently, British Pound is losing ground on major currencies thus this has affected us especially those who Britain is their major market. The supermarkets are adamant to increase prices and our only hope will be after the US elections

Where do you see the industry in the coming years?

Definitely the horticulture industry will grow strong as Europe relies on us heavily. This is due to the fact that we are located in the tropics hence being able to supply produce throughout the year. The quality of our produce, the taste and even our political stability makes us a hub for production.

What are some of the challenges the horticultural industry is grappling with?

Challenges are many but we have been able to manage most of them. Some are weather related, escalating costs of inputs, water quality and soils getting depleted. I applaud Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), who have partnered with the Kenya government in control of management hitches.

Where do you draw your strength to work tirelessly?

I have passion for what I do and I treat it as an agri-business. There is a remarkable team here to support and people in Europe waiting for produce. Today you get it right, tomorrow wrong; always there is a room for improvement; I love it. It has to be done.

What is your advice to those who are to venture into Agri-business?

I will advise them to secure market first, ones they have, start even if it is small. People have to eat and we have to feed ourselves and Europe.

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