KENYA Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has launched the horticulture quality mark KS 1758’, that will be attached to all fresh produce in the supermarkets before the end of the year, to enforce standards applied on exports so as to curb high level of toxic substances blamed for rising cases of cancer.

The Directorate of Horticulture has partnered with the Retail Traders Association of Kenya (Retrak), Kenya Fresh Produce Association and other stakeholders in the horticulture sector to enforce this regulation.

This follows the establishment of Kenya Standards (KS)1758 developed by stakeholders in horticulture with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) as a secretariat, necessitating all vegetables and fruits to be subjected to the same quality standards as the ones for export.

This initiative will be more of consumer driven as it will give consumers a chance to select those that have complied with quality checks, especially on minimum residue levels.

Mr. Munya noted that despite the fact the exports only account for four percent of the total horticulture produce in the country, the 96 percent that is consumed locally is not subjected to safety checks.

“Consumers have become more aware of potential food hazards and are demanding safe food. This has resulted in setting up of safeguard measures on food… by national and regional regulatory agencies in the area of quality and safety,” said Mr. Munya in a speech read on his behalf by AFA director general Kellow Harsama.

He added that the country’s focus has been on food security and not produce quality and safety, which has incapacitated the regulators to effectively enforce food safety.

Head of the horticulture directorate Benjamin Tito declared that the agency will be conducting random tests in all the major markets across the country to check on compliance with the required levels of chemicals and trace the product back to the farmers in the event of non-compliance.

“What we shall be doing with mama mboga is to trace back where they bought their merchandise, in the event they have high levels of residues, it will guide us in advising the farmer on the right type of chemicals to use or the duration that it should take after spraying before harvesting, helping to cure the problem at the source,” said Mr. Tito.

Retrak CEO Wambui Mbarire said they are starting on pilot phase with the supermarkets in Nairobi and other surrounding regions before it is eventually rolled out countrywide.

She expounded that 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.

The domestic value of horticulture has risen by 22 per cent between 2015 and 2019 from Injecting KSh209 billion (US $ 1,936,081,511.10) in 2015 to KSh268 billion (US $ 2,482,630,837.20) in 2019.

According to Capital FM the horticulture value chain is an important source of livelihood for millions of Kenyans with total horticultural production amounting to over KSh 100bn (US $926,354,790.00), while 95% of the produce sold in the domestic market accounts for more than KSh 300 billion (US $ 2,779,064,370.00) in revenue contribution

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.