Kenya is hoping to increase its agricultural and livestock products exports to Europe with newly commissioned food testing laboratory equipment.

While the standoff over the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) among the East Africa Community (EAC) member states continues, Kenya wants to enhance the standards and quality of its products to gain more access to the lucrative European Union (EU) market.

Currently, the EU is Kenya’s largest export market accounting for nearly 25 per cent of its total exports, majority of which is agricultural produce. Last year, the country exported goods worth $1.1 billion to the EU.

The new equipment will enhance the quality of food products by testing residues and harmful organisms such as pesticide and veterinary drug residues in foods; toxic elements like lead, arsenic and mercury; disease causing micro-organisms; harmful food additives; and mycotoxins (such as aflatoxin).

The equipment has been installed at the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Directorate of Veterinary Services, and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) laboratories at a cost of $13.3 million.

Boosting credibility

It was funded by the EU through the Standards and Market Access Programme that supports initiatives targeted at assuring safety and quality of locally produced and imported food products and enhance the basket of quality export products from Kenya.

“Development of food standards and safety on scientific principles will promote domestic, regional and international trade and boost Kenya’s and Africa’s credibility and attractiveness as a trade and investment destination,” said Adan Mohamed, Kenya’s Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary on Tuesday.

French beans ban lifted

Already, gains from improved products testing are being felt after it contributed to lifting of the 10 per cent ban on sampling of French beans from Kenya. The beans are now getting access to the EU market with no physical checks at designated ports of entry into Europe.

Kebs has also been able to develop 77 standards which cover tea, coffee, horticulture fresh produce, cereals and pulses, milk and milk products, processed fruits and vegetables, meat and meat products, fish and fishery products and honey products.

EU Ambassador to Kenya Stefano Dejak said the equipment will significantly help Kenya to increase production and consumption of safer and quality foods, which will lead to increased competitiveness of Kenyan products.

“Improving food safety standards further opens up Kenyan products to the 500 million-strong European market,” he said.

He added the programme is not only improving the value and safety of products across the value chain, but it is also improving the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on agriculture.

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