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Pest Free Zone Campaign to be launched to boost mango exports

A  campaign to create a pest free area will be launched next  week in Makueni to improve production and quality of mangoes.

This will stimulate export of mangoes to the lucrative markets especially in Europe and eventually lead to increased incomes for mango farmers and value chain actors.

Speaking in Nairobi on Friday during a Media Breakfast on the campaign, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) Managing Director, Dr. Esther Kimani said the campaign dubbed “Komesha Fruit fly” will sensitize and create awareness on economic benefits of applying integrated pest management technologies to curb fruit fly damage on mango fruits.

“The success of the campaign means a pest free area that will lead to reduced post-harvest losses through damage by 50 percent, improved quality and food safety of mango fruits and products,” she said.

KEPHIs imposed a temporary self-ban on export of mangoes, which is the second most common fruit produced in Kenya after banana, to lucrative markets in 2014 because of not being able to meet the strict phytosanitary restrictions and also to protect market.

Dr. Kimani said that they are planning to lift the ban on mango once the farmers have demonstrated compliance with the international standards on phytosanitary measures that spells out properly how a pest free area of production is established.

“This campaign is running for two years and we are hoping that by the end of the two years we will have reached the goal. And as we continue collecting data that will inform us, maybe in one year’s time we will be there,” she said, adding that the timeline can change from one year to even more years depending on how players in the industry come together to address the issues.

The MD further warned that the weather that is currently being experienced due to climate change is becoming conducive for the multiplication of pests thus it’s important to be alert and manage the pests.

“If we don’t manage the pests, the country might lose a lot in terms of quality of products, productivity, loss of market and we should therefore be conscious and make sure we put in mitigation measures,” Dr. Kimani said.

The  Makueni Governor, Prof. Kivutha Kibwana said that mango farming contributes about 40 percent of the farm household income of three counties of Makueni, Kitui and Machakos.

Makueni County which is leading in mango production in Kenya with a total of Sh.4.3 million mango trees grown by 109,098 farmers, produces 280,238 metric tonnes valued at Sh.4.7 billion.

However, the Governor said the county has undertaken several steps towards addressing constraints in the fruit and vegetable sector with the establishment of Makueni fruit processing factory.

He noted that due to the establishment of the factory which has set price of mangoes at Ksh.18 per kg, most private sector operators are offering better prices meaning that the stabilization of the prices.

“This fruit fly free zones campaign is one of the most important initiatives to ensure that we have good produce and as a result we are going to fetch good prices in the local and international market,” Kibwana said.

He added that they are engaging the association of mango buyers to address ethical issues of unfair trading so that they don’t exploit farmers.

“We accept that the private sector must make its profit but also the farmers must make their profit so that we have win -win situation,” he said.

Through this campaign, Kibwana noted that the County is also engaging cooperatives and other players to enforce good agricultural practices with a view to producing quality fruits that are disease free.

The State Department of Crop Development and Agricultural Research Principal Secretary (PS), Prof. Hamadi Boga said the pest free area in Makueni is targeting about 7,500 households under phase1, covering about 3,000 hectares.

In a speech read on his behalf by Director of Research at the Ministry, Dr. Oscar Magenya, the PS noted that the government has put in place other measures to mitigate against the fruit fly.

“We will be establishing at least one modern pack house fitted with hot water treatment equipment, certification of mango farms and produce, capacity building of stakeholders in the mango value chain; development of modern mango collection centers in every ward and creation of a modern open air market facility for local marketing of mangoes and other fresh produce,” Boga said .

The  PS urged the mango value chain players to work together to ensure that our mangoes are exported to international premium markets through good agricultural practices and knowledge of market requirements.

Fruit  flies  are serious pests that damage over 200 types of fruit and vegetables, in Kenya losses of about Sh.50 billion annually are incurred due to fruit fly pest while food losses and waste is estimated to cost the global economy up to Sh.94 trillion or USD 940 billion per year with both producers and consumers losing money on a daily basis. .

The campaign will be implemented in Makueni and Kitui counties by the Mango technical working group which comprises County government of Makueni, Feed the future Kenya crops and dairy market systems, KEPHIS, Rockefeller foundation, Technoserve, UNIDO, Mango traders, researchers and development partners.

By  Joseph Ng’ang’a

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