Counties from the South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc (SEKEB) are known for their mangoes. The incomes from mango farming contributes about 40 per cent of the farm household income in the region. Top mango producer is Makueni County with 1,469,625 mango trees grown by 28,696 farmers.
Despite the mango’s potential contribution to economic and nutritional security for smallholder farmers, it has not been fully exploited due to challenges along the value chain. One major challenge is damage by fruit flies which has been reported to cause losses ranging from 40 to 80 per cent of the crop, depending on the locality, season and the variety. The impact of the fruit fly has led to increased cost of production, low quality fruits, high post-harvest losses and an export self-ban by the Government of Kenya to lucrative markets since fruit flies are classified as quarantine pests.
But now, after a six-year ban, mango exports to Europe, the US and other key markets are set to resume following measures being put in place by the regulator, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) supported by Mango Technical Working Group (TWG) to address the issues that led to the 2014 ban. For starters, in 2014, several consignments of unprocessed mangoes were intercepted in EU due to presence of fruit flies.
Quality of exported mangoes
A survey presented at the 2nd International Phytosanitary Conference held in June, 2018 at the Kephis headquarters in Nairobi to ascertain the quality of mangoes exported from Kenya three years after the EU ban, found that in Makueni County 25 per cent of farms had fruit flies (Bactrocera dorsalis). At the point of exit, three per cent of samples were found to be infested with mango seed weevil and 0.1 per cent with fruit flies. The survey, titled Quality of Mangoes Exported from Kenya and Strategies for Compliance to International Market Requirements, was presented by Augustus Kivi, a Plant Health Officer at the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO).
Mango producers have suffered from the reduced sales, incomes and return on agricultural investments that, in turn, negatively impacts their livelihoods and food security. For the food-based processing organisations, post-harvest losses (PHL) reduce their sourcing stability and supply chain management efficiency. It also reduces their profitability and returns on investments while increasing their waste management costs. The end consumers are not spared either, as they cannot access affordable and safe food that is sustainably produced in an environmentally friendly way.