KENYA – Kenyan enterprises have unveiled intentions to adopt the Chinese approach of training packers to capitalize on trade opportunities in horticultural commodities at the global level.

Cornelly Serem, the chairman of the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), attributes Kenya’s struggle to secure international markets for its horticultural produce to subpar packaging, resulting from inadequate training of packers.

Serem has proposed emulating China’s model by establishing a comprehensive training institution for packers, aimed at enhancing the positioning of Kenyan horticultural produce in the international market.

Speaking at the certification ceremony for the Nairobi Horticulture Center Produce Handling Facility in Nairobi, Serem highlighted the government’s contemplation of establishing an institution to train fresh produce packers, thereby elevating the competitiveness of locally produced fruits and vegetables globally.

Post-certification, Kenya is prepared to meet the heightened demand from China, which now includes mangoes and bananas, in addition to avocados that the country is already trading.

The certification is anticipated to address the requirements of other international markets like India, which has expressed interest in importing Kenya’s fresh produce but has been deterred by concerns related to packaging quality, hygiene, and produce safety.

Zacharia Lukorito, the acting director in charge of standards development and trade at the Kenya Bureau of Standards, emphasized that the certification process for the Horticultural Produce Handling Facility (Pack-House) involved a series of audits and corrective actions.

Christine Rotich, the acting director of the Horticultural Crops Directorate, described the certification process, initiated in 2017, as a boon for Kenya’s eight refrigerated packing houses.

Rotich highlighted that all personnel involved in the production process have undergone adequate training to implement and adhere to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan.

HACCP is a tool focusing on hazard analysis and critical control points, establishing control systems that prioritize prevention over end-product testing.

Effective communication regarding food safety has been established by the government, involving all parties in the production process.

This initiative encompasses analysis, user sensitization, and training for auditors and food safety teams. The pack house facility, providing packing space and cold storage, caters to startup and medium-scale exporters and importers of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers.

In the 2022/2023 period, the facility handled 1.09 million kg of fruits (avocado, mangoes, and passion fruit) and 1.23 million kg of vegetables (French beans, snow peas, sugar snaps, tomatoes, herbs, and spices).

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