Farmers are set to reap the benefits of an expanded market both locally and internationally with the launch of the online National Horticulture Traceability System (NHTS).

This system, unveiled this week, aims to automate the tracking of fresh produce from the farm to the market, reducing instances of notifications for produce suspected of having exceeded the minimum threshold for pesticides.

The new development is set to enhance Kenya’s export market as the issues of maximum residual levels have been a major hindrance to Kenya’s products destined for the international market.

Developed in collaboration with the USAID-funded Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems (RTI-KCDMS) project, the NHTS focuses on enhancing transparency and accountability within the horticultural supply chain.

Chairman Cornelly Serem of the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) highlighted that the system addresses challenges faced by the industry in meeting international food safety requirements, particularly those of the EU market.

Mr Serem said the implementation of this system represents a significant shift not only in the horticulture sector but also across various agricultural segments.

Mr Serem also pointed out that the new system will also ensure that consumers locally have access to safe food as they will be in a position of what is sold to Kenyans in markets and supermarkets.

There has been an outcry before from different stakeholders that fresh produce that has been rejected for the international market finds its way to the local market, exposing local consumers to harmful food.

“We can assure local consumers that the quality of produce that they will get locally will be the same as what we export as the new system will address the cases of safety for both markets,” said Mr Serem.

As the system is rolled out, efforts will be made to integrate it with other relevant government agencies, such as the Pest Control Products Board and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), for easier stakeholder access.

Over the past five years, the rejection of fresh produce in the EU market has decreased from over 40 notifications to around 10 warnings, according to the regulator.

Mr Serem underscored that these challenges pose a threat to the competitiveness of Kenyan horticulture exports, particularly to the EU, which stands as Kenya’s main export market.

Speaking at the launch in Nairobi, Mr Serem commended USAID for its contributions to the sector and highlighted the system’s potential to address market requirements and compliance for both domestic and international markets.

Robert Mwadime, Chief of Party for the KCDMS, praised AFA for achieving this milestone.

He acknowledged AFA’s dedication and determination, noting their proactive approach to the implementation of the traceability system was laudable.

Dr Mwadime also highlighted collaborative efforts with other government agencies, such as the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), where technology transfer initiatives have been instrumental.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org