Kenya has dispatched a delegation to Brussels to lobby for resumption of mango exports to the lucrative European Union market.
The team, led by Directorate of Horticulture and Kenya Health Plant Inspectorate Service (Kephis) officials, is steering negotiations to have the country access the market after nearly a decade of having not exported the produce to the EU.
Kenya imposed a ban on export of its mangoes to Europe in 2012 for fears that the produce would be blacklisted due to high level of fruit flies, which are quarantine pests in the EU.
The government is using the creation of pest free areas as a basis for having the ban lifted. The pest-free zones have been established in Makueni and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.
“We are here to put a strong case for our mangoes as we seek to resume the exports to the European market,” said Ojepati Okesgere, the chief executive officer of Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya.
The creation of the zones will guarantee pest-free mangoes for export to the EU, hence no fears of the produce being blacklisted.
Kephis sent some tonnes of mangoes to Italy on trial basis in September from the pest-free zones and Rome expressed its satisfaction with the fruits.
Local mango and fruit farmers have been grappling with the fruit fly since 2003 when the pest was first reported in the country from Sri Lanka.
The self-imposed ban has seen Kenya sell the bulk of its mangoes to the Middle East but returns have been lower compared to what growers would earn from EU states.
Kenya’s mango exports to the Middle East normally face steep competition from the Egyptian fruits because of the low cost of shipping from Cairo to Dubai and Qatar compared to Kenya’s.
Egypt’s proximity to middle-eastern countries, where Kenya is at the moment exporting the bulk of its fruits, enjoys lower shipping cost with a kilo going for Sh32 by ship when compared with a Kenyan exporter who has to part with Sh108 for the same quantity.
Egypt has the advantage of the sea, which cuts on cost, when compared with Kenya which has to export by air for the fruits to arrive when still fresh.