EU Commissioner for Health, Food and Feed Safety and Animal Health and Welfare - Mrs Androulla Vassiliou - meets Kenyan beneficiaries of the EU-funded PIP Programme and HORTICAP project. This provides her with a unique chance to appreciate how the challenge of meeting EU food safety regulations has been turned into an opportunity for African agriculture.
On 7th April the Commissioner will meet Kenyan beneficiaries of the EU-funded PIP programme. This will be an opportunity to show how the Kenyan horticultural export sector has risen to the challenge of meeting EU food safety regulations. It will also demonstrate how the legislation, designed primarily to protect the health and safety of EU consumers, has had positive spin-offs for local agriculture.
Major changes have been made to EU food safety legislation in recent years that could potentially have created market access barriers for African fresh produce exporters. In the 1990’s COLEACP, an association of ACP horticultural exporters and EU importers, spotted the potential problem and brought it to the attention of European authorities. Horticultural exports play a key role in the national economy of many African countries, and maintaining market access was a priority. As a result, the ACP Group of States and the EU launched the PIP in 2001, and it has been managed continuously by the COLEACP ever since.
The global objective of the PIP is to strengthen the competitiveness of ACP horticultural export companies and, in particular, small and medium-scale growers. The specific objective is to ensure that their exports comply with EU market requirements in terms of the official legislation (food safety and traceability regulations), as well as commercial standards such as GlobalGAP. PIP works in close collaboration with several Directorate General in the European Commission including DG SANCO, DG DEV and DG Trade.
Eight years after it began, PIP has achieved very positive results. The philosophy has been to help exporters put in place durable risk management systems covering food safety, traceability, integrated pest management, and in-house training. Working in 28 ACP countries, PIP support has helped companies to upgrade and comply, and ACP exports have maintained their share of EU markets. On top of this, the development of the export sector has had positive spin-offs for local economies in a number of ways. For example, PIP has produced crop protocols to incorporate principles of good agricultural practice for export crops, but the impact is seen in improved management and food safety in crops destined for local markets too.
PIP is delighted to host the Commissioner’s visit in Kenya, where producers and exporters have been very active in seeking and utilising PIP support. To date PIP has worked with 42 Kenyan exporters (themselves sourcing from an estimated 25,000 smallholder growers) and some 30 service providers. PIP also liaises closely at a strategic level with the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), as well as the National Task Force on Horticulture.
Together with the European Commission Delegation in Kenya, FPEAK, the Kenyan Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), and the National Task Force on Horticulture, PIP will guide the Commissioner on a tour of facilities and packhouses around Nairobi Airport. The Commissioner will also meet Kephis officials, and observe Kephis inspectors in action. Kephis is the national competent authority delegated to oversee the national food safety system, and is benefiting from EU support of KES 350 million (€3.2 million) under the HORTICAP project. One of the main project components is the construction and equipping of a state of the art laboratory which will go a long way towards improving inspection of horticultural produce for export to the EU and other markets.
The high level visit is very encouraging to both the PIP and HORTICAP, as well as to Kenya's horticultural industry. A second phase of the PIP will be launched before the end of 2009 - this demonstrates the importance the European Union gives to ACP exports. This continued support is essential in complementing the sector's efforts to conform to export market requirements.