Kenya Declares Stand on Carbon Footprints (Part I)

Posted on 2 November 2007. Filed under: Environment |

This submission has been prepared by the National Taskforce on Horticulture of Kenya, an interactive forum with a multi-stakeholder public and private sector membership involved in the horticulture sub-sector. The taskforce hopes that Kenya complies with market requirements; sustains its reputation as a leading grower and exporter of horticultural produce and reliable and consistent information channels relating to the horticultural sector are opened.

Genesis of the Debate

Kenya has noted the emerging debate regarding the contribution of transportation of commodities towards the overall greenhouse gas emissions to the environment and therefore, global warming. The debate includes labeling air-freighted horticultural produce and possible ban. To portray a true picture, the total carbon footprints of these commodities need to be considered from seed to fork. Any decision taken should be after serious consultation, enough factual evidence and weighing of its implication to the wider international community.

In Kenya, the first serious debates started in December 2006. The Tesco Speech on issues related to food miles in January 2007 (TESCO, Carbon and the Consumer 18 January 2007 by Sir Terry Leahy) triggered off many debates which culminated with the Kenya Flower Council’s national meeting on 15th February, 2007 to bring awareness to the general public. During this “Stakeholders Meeting to Discuss Strategies to Deal with The Threat Posed by Carbon Emissions and Trade Miles Market Requirements” 68 high level participants, led by the Agriculture Secretary, Dr. Wilson Songa were present.

Mr. Richard Brasher (Group buying director and Tesco’s representative) admitted that the debate was difficult and mentioned that Tesco would try to keep air transports low. Participants present preferred a wholistic look at the issue of food miles rather than just picking on the issue of air miles.

The debate shows the big gap between developed and developing economies. In UK, DEFRA already had developed a paper related to food miles way back in 2002 or 2003, while Kenya was just starting the debate. It was a reactionary rather than proactive response. This is typical of many market regulations and standards that have come before the Kenyan horticulture sub-sector in the recent past, for example, EurepGAP, traceability, MRLs, official controls on food and feed, control of harmful organisms, and conformity checks for fruits and vegetables among others. The net effect of these requirements has been increased costs of doing business. A typical horticultural enterprise geared towards the EU market undergoes a multitude of audits per year linked various demands by the markets, making our produce one of the safest health wise.

The UK market

The UK organic food sector has grown significantly in the recent years. In 2005, it was worth £ 1.5 billion, representing a 32 % increase over the previous year, making UK the third largest market in Europe behind Germany and Italy. This sector is projected to reach £ 3 billion by 2012. UK is the leading market for Kenyan exports in the EU, and one of Kenya’s most important trading partners. It remains one of Kenya’s largest suppliers, with exports of goods to Kenya valued at $ 477 million (£240 million) in 2006. UK imports from Kenya were worth $ 377 million (£189 million) in 2006. This meant that Kenya’s exports to the UK stood at 11 % of total exports and imports from the UK 6.5 % of total imports (Monthly economic review, February, 2007). The UK is one of the largest foreign investors in Kenya.

It is difficult to quantify the amount of organic fresh produce that is air-freighted, but the biggest airfreight exporter of fresh produce in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is Kenya. It exported 32,500 tonnes to the UK in 2005. According to IIED, the UK imported £ 200 million of fresh fruit and vegetables (FFV) from SSA in 2005. The quantity of exports from the region continues to grow. Of these exports, Kenya alone accounted for produce worth £ 100 million.

Tara Garnett of centre for environmental strategy, University of Surrey, argues that the growth in importation of horticultural produce by UK is fuelled by various factors. Key among them is what the consumer likes and can’t grow in the UK throughout, for example, bananas, beans, and peas. Wastefulness at the UK household and food service stages is another factor. Twenty five percent of all harvested fruits and vegetables are never consumed. Also, a love for pre-packed vegetables might be a cause. All these factors contribute to a large extent in issues related to global warming. Already projections show a strong growth in canned commodities and pre-packs in the coming years which can’t be met by local supply. Garnett calculates that 1.53 % of fresh fruits and vegetables (FFV) imported into the UK is done by air and this airfreight accounts for 0.23 % of the UK’s total CO2 emissions and 0.2 % of GHG emissions. The remainder of UK fresh produce imports is by sea or road.

The Economic and Social Value of Exports

In June 2007, Prof. Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School gave a lecture titled Global Competitiveness: Implications for Kenya. He cited Kenya’s successful cut flower industry and explained how businesses can play a key role in improving the country’s competitiveness. The inclusion of SSA nations in the high value horticulture and flower markets has been a success story.

Kenya would be particularly badly hit by any restrictions on air freighting fresh produce. It is the single biggest airfreight exporter in SSA, exporting 91 % of all their FFV exports to the UK by air. FAO recognizes the UK and other EU and developed countries as strong market opportunities for organic agriculture for developing countries. Hence farmers would be denied access to many of these opportunities if trade restrictions on organic airfreighted produce were imposed. The impact of Soil Association’s policy on the industry and consumers consciousness should be considered. The anticipated move by the Soil Association to restrict air-freighted organic imports could set a dangerous precedent for other food and fresh produce sectors which could have a far larger impact on developing countries.

Although UK’s DFID says that action is necessary to curb global warming, such action must recognize that agricultural growth is necessary for economic development and increased productivity means cheaper food, more jobs and higher incomes. Agriculture is the most important sector in Kenya as over 70 % of the population is linked to the sector. The Soil Association recognizes that importation of produce is done to ensure continuity of supply. Consumers need to have food choices. Imposing restrictions on imports of organic foods would restrict consumer choice.

Kenya’s Horticulture

In 2006, Kenya’s horticultural exports (both fresh and processed) were worth Kshs 49.3 billion (over 360 million sterling pounds; over $ 700 million or € 530 million). More than 95 % of Kenyan exports go to the EU. Half year results for the period January to June 2007 against the same period in 2006 shows steady growth. The sub-sector employs directly and indirectly millions of persons (some estimates put it at over four million), majority of whom are women. It is estimated that 80% of all horticultural production is by small scale growers.

Status of Organic Agriculture in Kenya

The main objectives are to diversify production of food at the household level in a sustainable way; ensure ecological sustainability of the farming systems and increase household incomes through market access. Formal organic agriculture in Kenya dates back to the early 1980s when the first pioneer organic training institutions were established. The organic sector is relatively small but fast growing with a number of private sector companies growing fresh organic produce for export. Sunripe, Vitacress and Kisima for example, mainly grow vegetables and fruits targeting the UK markets.

Most smallholders are organized into groups. Some of these are registered. In 2003, some small-scale organic farmers formed a national representative organization, the Kenya Organic Farmers Association (KOFA). Organic agriculture stakeholders in Kenya, including Kenya Organic Producers Association (KOPA) and KOFA formed the umbrella network (Kenya Organic Agriculture Network) KOAN to support the successful growth of the sector.

There are currently over 180,000 hectares of land under organic certification for export markets, plus another 853 hectares in conversion. A significant area will soon converted for wild harvested products.

In 2005, KOAN began working with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), in preparing national standards and guidelines for organic production, processing and packaging. The guidelines are available to Kenyans for use. In addition, harmonization of the organic standards in the East African region is complete and the East African Organic Products Standard is now in use. Five international certifiers operate in Kenya: the Soil Association (SA), EcoCert International; IMO; USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) National Organic Programme (NOP); and Bio Suisse.

Information provided by KOPA member companies indicates that between 30 and 1,200 staff members are employed per company. In this regard, commercial organic agriculture is an important source of employment. Price premiums for organic products on the international market, as compared to conventional products, range between 15 per cent for certified fresh vegetables while fruits attract around 50 to 80 per cent premiums.

Statement by Organic Agriculture Stakeholders

“We, stakeholders in the organic horticultural sector, take great exception to the proposed ban on airfreight produce. In the name of mitigating global warming, retailers, environmentalists and European farm groups have formed an alliance to specifically label or totally cut out air freighted food products from EU markets. Kenya’s organic industry could be affected most severely if the Soil Association (SA) bans the imports of Organic Products into the UK. Organic farmers – who produce and export fruit & vegetables by air to maintain freshness — will be most severely hurt by the food miles campaign if the SA withdraws the organic status of air freighted goods. The ability of Kenyan smallholders to supply EU retail markets is already under considerable strain through the supermarkets insistence on the costly certification known as EurepGAP. If conventional horticultural exports were also banned across the board from the EU, this would trigger a severe crisis for the Kenyan economy that depends on revenues in excess of US$700 million annually and employs millions of people”.

Continued on next page / article

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[…] Air freight of organic produce to the UK, which is the only way to transport the perishable food. Part I of the article includes background information on the debate, some statistics of the UK market and […]


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