Kenya’s horticulture exports rose to Sh115 billion in 2017 marking an 11 percent gain over the earnings made across 2016.

Growth was made in the backdrop of a difficult business operating environment witnessed over the previous two years across the globe.

The country was faced by a disruptive and lengthy electioneering period in the second half of 2017 while in 2016, the external fresh produce market came under exerted pressure with the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

Speaking during the unveiling of the key sector performance statistics, Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) of Kenya Chief Executive Officer Okesegere Ojepat said the horticulture sector remained intact despite the economic uncertainties experienced in 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 weather the Brexit shock, pointing to the greater potential of the sector,” he said.

Cut-flower exports remained the highest grossing segment in the sector contributing to over 70 percent of the total fresh produce annual earnings.

Flower export volumes on the other hand increased to 159,961 tons which represented an 11.6 percent growth in earnings from Sh70.83 billion to Sh82.24 billion.

The fresh produce sector however continues to face systemic and fiscal challenges.

The FPC identified a number of key challenges including lack of traceability of system for fresh produce, high cost of production, lack of extension services, poor information flow, insufficient cooling facilities, weak compliance to food safety requirements and taxation issues.

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Mr Ojepat said his consortium was seeking to fill in the gaps and help in smoothening the information flow between various stakeholders.

“Going forward, FPC will focus on ensuring proper representation, lobbying and advocacy for its members, capacity building, food and nutritional security, trade, food loss and waste which we believe will enable us to expand the fresh produce sector in terms of production capacity and earnings,” he said.

Domestically, the fresh produce sector continues to face runaway challenges with wastage being the major concern for the industry.

Despite the magnitude of the local market segment, 40 percent of fresh produce in the market goes to waste.

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