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 quality mark 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.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said consumers will be able to select retail outlets who have complied with quality standards for their purchases before the end of the year.
Munya noted that despite the fact that exports accounted for only four percent of the total horticulture produce in the country, 96 percent of produce for the domestic market lacks quality checks to ensure they are safe for consumption. His remarks were delivered by Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) Director General Kellow Harsama.
The quality mark for the KS1758 Code of Practice has been developed through a joint initiative of the Directorate of Horticulture, Retail Traders Association of Kenya (RETRAK) and the Standards Implementation Committee (SIC) with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.
RETRAK has been leading the awareness campaigns in Nairobi, Mombasa and Machakos counties to enhance compliance with a raft of measures outlined in the Code of Practice. The campaign that will be widened across the country targets major actors involved in the trade of fruits and vegetables namely, farmers, aggregators, middlemen, transporters, packers, retailers, wholesalers, local authorities and regulators.
RETRAK CEO Wambui Mbarire noted that despite huge revenues generated by horticulture value chain there were still challenges in ensuring quality of food traded in formal and informal domestic markets is of the highest standards.
“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,” said Ms. Wambui.
It is anticipated that the adoption of KS 1758 will enhance food safety, food quality and also facilitate sustainable market access through the retail outlets.
The horticulture value chain is an important source of livelihood for millions of Kenyans with exports at 4% of total horticultural production amount to over Kshs 100bn, while 95% of the produce sold in the domestic market accounts for more than Kshs 300 billion in revenue contribution. The bulk of produce for domestic market comprises vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices, medicinal and aromatic plants.
This process is anchored in the provisions of the National Food Safety Policy of 2013 which proposes a broad set of policy interventions to improve food safety in the country. These include the standard KS 1758-2:2016 that is a Code of Practice that aims at providing rules for safe and sustainable production and supply of fruits and vegetables in Kenya for both export and domestic markets.
“Expectations are that the players including the Retail Trade Association of Kenya (RETRAK), who is managing the KS 1758 Pilot Grant, will install a credible, inclusive and transparent quality assurance scheme, geared to demonstrate that the Kenya horticulture industry meets minimum national and market requirements especially in this case for the formal and the informal sector,” said Wambui.
The project also seeks to promote public private partnerships in the implementation of the Standard. These partnerships will ensure that a legal and regulatory framework is in place, build capacity among market actors and laboratories to achieve and monitor compliance with standards, and provide information to consumers through certification and early warning systems.