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EU tax move worries Kenyan exporters

NAIROBI, August 25- Players in the horticulture sector are once again lobbying the European Union (EU) to consider deferring the proposed introduction of a tax on cargo planes operating in and out of Europe.

The proponents of the debate, which is already before the European Parliament, say the tax aims to reduce environmental impact of organic air freight.

If passed, the law is expected to come into effect in 2010.

Fresh Produce Exporters Associations of Kenya (FPEAK) boss Dr Stephen Mbithi told Capital Business that they had put in place several initiatives on the ground such as using their colleagues in Europe to influence the Members of the European Parliament on the matter.

He explained that if imposed, the tax would negatively impact on developing countries as their airlines would have to pass down the costs to their customers.

This would translate to increased cargo charges and air fares.

Although the law is not targeted at horticulture or Africa, Mbithi said the new legislation would affect the industry and the continent.

“The Brussels Commission should consider the impact of such a move on developing countries as it will not only render Africa’s product un-competitive but also hurt the poor population,” he emphasised.

He dispelled the argument that the move would lead to reduction of greenhouse emissions saying plane pollution is significantly less compared to that of ships or vehicles.

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“This is a wrong target. But if you are looking at pollution from a transport point of view, then you will realize that ships pollution is more than 200 percent of what planes do,” he explained.

Mbithi argued that the move was also pretentious as many countries such as the US had not even signed the Kyoto protocol, a move that displays that they don’t have the commitment to address carbon emissions.

Africa’s contribution to the total global emission is a negligible 3 percent and as such exempted from cutting down on the emission by the Climate Change Convention.

“This is a decision that is not informed on the statistics on impact and it’s something that Kenya would not be in favour of because it will have the unintended impact of slowing down aspects of farming,” he added.

This is the second time that Kenyan producers are lobbying to Europe as it comes barely 12 months after the controversial food miles debate that was sparked by British supermarkets where products from Kenya and Africa were labelled with air plane symbols.

This move was however seen as a blessing in disguise as in 2007, Kenya sold more cut flowers and French beans than it had sold in the last five years bringing the total sales to a whooping $1billion (Sh70billion).

He was however confident that the EU parliament would vote ‘wisely’.

“We are confident that they will be able to vote in a way that will not jeopardize horticulture or other sectors from the region,” he concluded.

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