Is Kenya losing its top position in the horticulture market?


Since 2008, the sector has been achieving growth rates ‘well below global competitors’. This, despite the fact that the country is one of the most successful producers and exporters of fresh produce and flowers.

According to the report, the growth of the horticulture sector hinges on an acute response to the underperformance of the once budding industry by government and industry players.

During a conference in Nairobi to address the uncertainties of the horticulture sector, which is among the leading employers in the country, it was noted that a turnaround strategy has to be adopted promptly.

“We are focusing on issues of increasing production and productivity given that Kenya still stands in a place where we have not attained optimal levels of productivity,” said Sicily Kariuki, principal secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“In this, we are investing in bringing down the cost of input all the way from the fertilizer and the seeds, and also embracing technology to help in increasing productivity.”

(READ MORE: Kenya’s agriculture positioned to open opportunities)

Some of the constraints the industry faces includes the high cost of regulatory compliance, the number of taxes and levies, which threaten competitiveness in the sector, as well as a lack of robust control in the sector.

Christophe De Vroey, a trade and communication counsellor said, “The reality relating to the competitiveness of the EAC industry is much more complex and lies in the ability of local producers and the government to address the multidimensional challenges, and barriers to trade, transport and communication processes need to go down and compete with international standards.”

The Kenyan government is employing a raft of measures to curb the downward spiral of the sector, which contributes significantly to the country’s GDP.

“We want to claim and put together a system that is credible, be it on the private sector side, be it on the side of institutions,” said Kariuki.

“We can then be able to proudly approach the market and confirm that we have done it right in the last two decades. We can do it better going forward despite the very competitive regional, but also global setting.”

Last year, the Kenyan government and the European Union (EU) signed a new Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

(READ MORE: Kenya horticulture exporters’ position threatened)

Exporters eyeing the European market were expected to face a tax bill of up to 100 million Kenyan shillings per week if a new trade agreement was not signed, and this deal will enable the East African country save up to 150,000 jobs that would have otherwise been lost.