KENYA – Kenya is set to resume export of mangoes to the lucrative multi-billion European market after an eight-year hiatus following a self-imposed suspension.

The ban was as a result of the fruit flies menace which was first discovered in the country in 2003 from Sri Lanka.

The emergence of the fruit fly in Kenya led to numerous interceptions of mango consignments by the EU authority between 2010 and 2014.

As a result, Kenya imposed a temporary self-export ban to protect the market and institute acceptable pest management measures.

The measures seem to have bore fruits as the EU has approved Kenya to commence exports of produce in September after tests indicated low levels of insect incidence.

“We have done a dry run and samples were submitted to EU and this was approved, putting us on the roadmap to begin mass export in September,” said Geoffrey Kiganiri, an official with USAID Kenya Crops and Market System.

Some of the drastic strategies that Kenya put in place to tame the pest’s infestation include creation of pest free areas that will guarantee mangoes being exported are free of flies.

The pest free zones have been established in Makueni and Elgeyo Marakwet counties. Makueni is largest producer of mangoes in the country, accounting for 31 per cent of the total production.

The county has a total of 4.3 million mango trees grown by over 100,000 farmers producing more than 184,000 tonnes followed by Kitui and Machakos counties respectively.

“We have done a dry run and samples were submitted to EU and this was approved, putting us on the roadmap to begin mass export in September.”

Geoffrey Kiganiri – Official with USAID Kenya Crops and Market System

“We are very optimistic that there will be no complications in reopening the market as the government and local farmers have been working together to implement approaches to reduce the spread of the pests.

“These include the establishment of pests’ free zones and use of traps and adhering to modern agricultural practices,” said HCD assistant director in charge of regulations and compliance Wilfred Yako.

Agriculture executive Robert Kisyula confirmed that implementation of agreed strategies has realised impressive results, for example, loss of mangoes has reduced to 20 per cent compared to between 40 per cent and 50 per cent in the last years.

“We have, together with farmers, effectively executed various initiatives and losses have reduced. These are comfortable figures prompting us to re-join the EU market.

“For the last two years we have supplied over 10,000 traps to the farmers over and above ensuring regular interaction,” said Kisyula.

Mango is the second most common fruit produced in Kenya after banana. It was grown on 49,098 hectares producing 69.8 million kilos worth Sh10.5 billion in 2019.

Since the ban, Kenya has been exporting mangoes to the Middle East but returns are reported to have been lower compared to what farmers would earn from EU states.