Kenyans will soon be able to buy vegetables and fruits bearing a quality mark from the supermarkets and other retail stores.
This follows the unveiling of a Mark of Quality for the ‘KS1758’ Code of Practice to scale up compliance with quality and safety regulations for fresh produce.
The Mark of Quality is part of a campaign to ensure all actors in the industry follow laid down procedures for responsible handling of fresh produce at every point of the value chain.
Speaking during the unveiling of the Mark of Quality, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS), Peter Munya, said consumers have become more aware of potential food hazards and are demanding safe food.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Director General of Agricultural Food Authority (AFA), Kello Harsama, the CS said this has resulted in setting up of safeguard measures in food and feed imports by national and regional regulatory agencies in the area of quality and safety.
The Government, the CS added gears towards ensuring that Kenyan horticultural produce is safe and meets the highest quality of standards set by the market for both domestic and international markets.
“The quality mark will not only enhance market access by addressing pesticide residue challenges and harmful organisms but also protect consumer health”, he said.
The quality mark, Munya further observed, will not only enhance County capacity to regulate and support farmers comply with quality and safety for domestic market but also offer opportunity for investment in safety support services at County level such as testing, capacity building and certification,” he added.
Much emphasis, the CS noted, has been made to enhance food safety for the exported commodities which comprise only four per cent (4%) of total production and yet 96 per cent of fruits and vegetables that are consumed locally is produced, stored, transported and sold in a manner that can harm citizens’ health.
The domestic value of horticulture has risen by 22 per cent between 2015 and 2019 from Injecting Sh209 billion in 2015 to Sh268 billion in 2019.
“Focus has been on food security and not produce, quality and safety, including inadequate capacity to effectively enforce food safety by regulators,” he said.
Munya acknowledged that the challenge still being faced is the strategy to adopt to enhance food safety in the domestic market which include unethical behaviour among traders and farmers growth in unregulated urban and peri-urban production as well as consumers unwilling to pay premium price for quality produce.
The CS noted that the National Horticulture Standard namely ‘KS 1758;’ Part 1 and Part 2 are benchmarked with other international standards and is now certifiable.
The symbol for the ‘KS1758’ Code of Practice has been developed through a joint initiative of the Horticultural Crops Development Authority, Retail Traders Association of Kenya (RETRAK) and the Standards Implementation Committee (SIC) with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.
RETRAK CEO, Ms Wambui Mbarire, said they have been carrying out awareness campaigns in Nairobi, Mombasa and Machakos counties, to enhance compliance with a raft of measures outlined in the Code of Practice.
The campaign, she added, will be widened across the Country, targeting major actors involved in the trade of fruits and vegetables namely, farmers, aggregators, middlemen, transporters, packers, retailers, wholesalers, local authorities and regulators.
“Despite huge revenues generated by the horticulture value chain there are still challenges in ensuring quality of food traded in formal and informal domestic markets is of the highest standards”, Mbarire said.
The CEO added that the full implementation of KS 1758 Horticulture Industry- Code of practice – Part 2 which takes care of fruits and vegetables, would institute a system that incorporates good agricultural practices, hygiene, environmental and social considerations in which food getting into our domestic markets would go through, to enhance food safety.
The Government through RETRAK and private sector Associations is engaging supermarkets to have their produce suppliers registered for purposes of enforcing the national standard.
By Wangari Ndirangu