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New policy to regulate horticulture

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 20 – The government is formulating a policy – which should be enacted by July – to regulate the horticulture industry.

Although the sector is one of the most liberalised in the country, Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome says this freedom has been abused by organisations thus the need to tighten controls.

"We believe that one of the reasons why the sector has grown so fast over the last couple of years is because of the level of liberalisation. But as we have done that, there have been some risks of various bodies taking advantage of that to introduce elements that are not within certain standards," said the PS.

However, with the new policy whose development is at a very advanced stage, Dr Kiome said the government hopes to introduce new varieties that floriculture growers can use without being exploited by unscrupulous breeders.

Further, the strategy will help to abolish double or multiple taxations that the industry is subjected to which would in turn spur growth.

The horticultural industry is the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector in the country contributing about 23 percent of Gross Domestic Product and also raking in an average of Sh70billion annually in foreign exchange.

Despite this growth however, it grapples with a number of challenges among them vulnerability to both internal and external shocks such as unfavourable weather conditions and global financial crises.

For instance, these two phenomena last year affected the value of the country\’s exports leading to a slight decline from Sh74billion in 2009 to Sh71.6bn last year.

This has further reinforced calls for diversification in order to spread the risks.

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"When there was economic meltdown in the various countries that we rely on especially the Western European markets, horticulture was very seriously affected. We know that if we had diversified and we were covering the globe, the impact could have been much less because the effect was different in the various countries and so we want to push hard and diversify," the PS added.

 Focus is now shifting to the Americas such as Brazil, Far East like China and Japan in order to widen the scope of the market. For this strategy to work however, it will need to be tempered with the adoption of modern technologies in all farming systems.

This call was apt as it came when he launched a system that will electronically transmit data showing that the country\’s horticultural exports meet the necessary phytosanitary requirements.

The electronic phytosanitary certification system, which is used to manage, maintain and view plant health certificate data generates both paper based and paperless certificates for the trade of plants and plant products.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has been running technical tests to see how the electronic phytosanitary certification will work but with launch it will system will be used for roses consignments but will be gradually scaled up to other horticultural products.

This system will be beneficial to the sector and the growers as they will be issued with inspection certificates by Kephis to show that their products are certified and fit for the export market.

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