Kenya’s earnings from fresh produce exports in 2017 jumped to Ksh 115 billion, an 11% increase over 2016 earnings, the industry association said on Thursday.
Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC Kenya) chairman Sylvester Maina told journalists in Nairobi that the sector remained resilient amid political and economic uncertainties of 2017.
“We laud the resilience of the fresh produce sector in the eye of the political and economic storm witnessed in 2017 and we are happy with the performance. This is the similar resilience that enabled the sector to weather the Brexit shock, pointing to the greater potential of the sector,” Maina said.
The data released by FPC Kenya shows flower exports contributed Ksh80.2 billion, up from Ksh 70.8 billion earned in 2016, representing a 11.6% growth, on export volume of 159,961 tonnes.
Maina said that fruits and vegetables earned Kenya 90 million dollars and Ksh 24 billion, on export volumes of 56,945 tones and 87,240 tonnes, respectively.
The cut-flower export still remains the largest earner, contributing over 70% of the total fresh produce annual earnings.
Maina was speaking at the official launch of FPC Kenya, which was rebranded from Kenya Association of Fruits and Vegetable Exporters.
“The rebranding now broadens our mandate to cover more areas particularly domestic market which has never been well coordinated, offers us capacity to engage with more stakeholders, and enables us to extend our membership and grow the sector,” he said.
In 2017, the fresh produce sector earned Ksh 306 billion from both domestic and export revenue.
Maina said that the vast amount of produce is consumed locally, with less than 10% of volume being sold overseas.
According to the lobby, the fresh produce sector has faced several challenges including lack of traceability systems for the fresh produce, high cost of production, lack of extension services, poor information flow, middlemen menace, insufficient cooling facilities, weak compliance to food safety requirements, and taxation issues.
Maina noted that approximately 80% of all fresh produce exports are sourced from small scale farmers.
Paul Mwenda, the vice chairman of FPC Kenya said that producers are seeking new markets in order to diversify from traditional markets in the European Union.
He said that most common fruits exported are mangos and avocados while French beans, snow peas, sugar snap constitute the bulk of vegetables sold in international markets.
He noted that the proposed direct flights between Kenya and the United States will also help to boost export earnings for farmers.
“Farmers of perishable produce are likely to benefit as the direct flights to the United States will reduce the time taken to reach the market,” he added.
Mwenda said that members of his lobby are also seeking to enter the Chinese fresh produce market.
“We have identified herbs and spices such as mint to have the biggest potential for farmers,” he said.
The trade lobby plans to organise an awareness campaign in order to educate farmers on how to penetrate the lucrative Chinese market.
Mwenda said that one of the strategies under consideration to venture into the Asian giant’s market of over one billion consumers is through participating in trade fairs in China.