Kenya expects to resume exporting mangoes to the European Union markets in September. The country had imposed a ban on exporting mangoes to Europe due to high levels of fruit flies. The temporary ban was imposed to protect the market and to ensure that farmers implement acceptable pest management practices. Fortunately, the eight-year self-imposed ban has been uplifted after the tests sent to the European Union indicated low fruit fly incidences.
According to Mr. Yako, the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) assistant director in charge of regulations and compliance, fruit fly infestation levels have been reducing drastically. This assures that producers and exporters can resume enjoying the lucrative EU markets.
Local fruit farmers have been battling with the fruit fly for almost two decades when Sri Lanka reported the presence of the pest in the country in 2003. Between 2010 and 2014, the presence of fruit fly infestation on Kenyan mangoes resulted in interceptions of several consignments by European Union regulatory authorities.
To minimize the fruit fly populations and to create pest-free zones, new strategies have been implemented. For instance, the government has been providing traps to small-scale farmers and has also launched the Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign. Besides, mango producers have been advised to embrace modern agricultural practices, use traps, and adhere to integrated pest management practices.
When the ban was enforced, Kenya shifted the exports to Middle East markets, selling the fruits at relatively lower prices compared to EU states. When mango exports to the EU resume, prices are expected to hike from Ksh 8 to Ksh 30 per fruit. In Europe for instance, a 4 kg carton costs Ksh 350 which translates into an average of Ksh 35 per fruit.
The government is collaborating with small-scale and large-scale producers to implement successful approaches to tame the spread of fruit flies and it has assured that there will be no complications in reopening the market.
Even as the market resumes, it has been noted that mangoes still find their way to Europe through third part markets, especially in Middle East countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. To maintain its reputation and to prevent the entry of quarantine pests to EU states, the country has imposed tougher measures and wants a mark of origin on all horticultural produce exported to the European Union and other parts of the world. A mark of origin will assure buyers in the European Union that the mangoes are coming from Kenya. Besides farmers will fetch higher returns compared to that from Middle East markets.
In Kenya, mango production is a significant economic enterprise. Commercial farmers mainly grow varieties known as Keitt, Kent, Apple, and Ngowe. Apart from a competitive advantage in the export markets, Kenyan mangoes have a unique value proposition. They are mainly produced in the Ukambani region especially Machakos, Makueni, and Kitui Counties, and in the Coastal regions. In Makueni, Apple, Kent, and Keitt are the most commonly grown varieties.