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Kenya horticultural sector eyes China expo to boost revenues   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s horticulture sector planned to participate in the upcoming China International Import Expo (CIIE) to boost its revenue, the industry association said on Thursday.

Okisegere Ojepat, CEO of Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPCK), told Xinhua in Nairobi that the event will provide an opportunity for Kenyan exporters to meet potential Chinese buyers for horticultural products.

“We want to use our participation at the China International Import Expo to make a major entry in the lucrative Chinese market,” Ojepat said.

He said the FPCK will be part of the Kenyan delegation at the expo.

He said currently the majority of fresh produce exports are sold in the European Union, United States and Middle East markets.

He added that about one percent of horticulture exports is sold to China and mostly through re-exports from other countries, stressing the sector will use the CIIE to boost direct sales into the vast Chinese market.

He observed that currently Kenya Airways and China Southern Airlines operate direct flights between Nairobi and Guangzhou.

“We want to leverage on this connectivity to boost sales of perishable goods into the Chinese market,” the CEO said.

According to the FPCK, Kenya has a huge potential to increase exports given that 95 percent of fresh produce is consumed locally.

He said that in 2017, the east African nation exported some 159,000 tonnes of cut flowers.

The CEO added that the most common horticulture exports include cut-flowers, broccoli, spices and sugar snaps.



Kenyan farmers emboldened to plant maize after curbing fall armyworm

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Farmers in different parts of Kenya are readying for the second maize planting season, which begins this month as the short rains period starts.

The farmers are currently preparing their land and buying inputs that include fertilizer to grow more maize, emboldened after the defeat of the pest in the long rain season crop, which they planted in March and harvested in August.

“I planted maize and beans and harvested late in August. The crop performed well despite initial attack by the fall armyworm. This has encouraged me to plant once again this season,” Vincent Namwale, a farmer in Kitale said on phone on Thursday.

As others in the region, Namwale’s maize on five acres was infested by the pest as soon as it was about four-leafed.

However, after unsuccessfully using pesticides alone to fight the pest, the farmer turned to unconventional ways of curbing the pest, which surprisingly worked.

“Most of us in this area mainly used washing detergents alongside pesticides to fight the pest. I would apply pesticides and follow up with detergents after two or three days. This helped me overcome the pest,” he recounted.

The farmer harvested some 50 bags (90kg per bag) of maize from his five acres, a feat that he has not savored since the pest was first detected in Kenya.

“In 2016 when the pest was first detected, I only harvested 13 bags from my five acres and did not bother to plant the second season. In 2017, I harvested some 25 bags after using pesticides offered by the county government,” said Namwale.

In addition to the fall armyworm, farmers in the East African nation have also battled the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, which wiped out swathes of maize plantation across the East African nation.

The disease attacked small farmers’ maize in 2014 and 2015 in the Rift Valley, Western, Central, Eastern and Nyanza, threatening the country’s food production and security.

The east African nation’s ministry of agriculture blamed the disease on widespread practice of using recycled or farm-saved maize seeds.

The disease was also blamed on mixing several types of maize varieties on one farm and failure by farmers to practice intercropping or crop rotation

Research institutions later released varieties of certified maize seeds that are resistant to the disease helping farmers curb them.

Having defeated the diseases and pest, the worst, therefore, seems to be over for the millions of Kenya’s maize farmers, who are now emboldened to grow the staple.

“We know what to use to defeat the fall armyworm and diseases like lethal necrosis. Myself I believe the worst in maize farming is now behind us, so I am confident to plant more maize this season though low prices are still an issue,” said Meshack Korir, a farmer in Uasin Gishu.

Bernard Moina, an agricultural extension officer, is optimistic that the worst on the farm may be over for maize farmers for now, but cautioned farmers to stick to certified seeds and observe crop rotation.

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