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April 05, 2011

Pest analysis laboratory to be set up in Kenya

Kenya will host sub-Saharan Africa’s first globally recognised pest risk analysis laboratory, ending a 15-year wait.

Established by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) in Muguga, with support from the United States Agency for International Development at a cost of $463,727, the lab has acquired the status of Africa’s Centre of Phytosanitary Excellence.

The laboratory will serve East African countries as well as some Southern African nations, being the only one of its kind, that can carry out pest analysis on plants exported in and out of the region, without subjecting materials to further tests at the points of entry.

The only other country in Africa with such a facility is South Africa.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Romano Kiome said the facility has elevated Kephis to high profile inspection bodies such as the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, on which it is modelled, and will now make it easier for the country to export to the US, whose stringent importation requirements had remained a challenge.

James Onsando, Kephis managing director, said the laboratory will also serve as a training centre for the region, as individual countries set up their own facilities.

“We are receiving requests for human resource development across the region, while some countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia have requested us to second our staff to train their people.”

Exporters of agricultural produce will be the winners, as they will be spared the extra cost of obtaining certificates at both exit and entry points, Mr Kiome said.

Kephis has inspection offices in Nairobi, Mombasa, Busia and Eldoret, as the government parastatal strives to cover all entry and exit points to prevent introduction of new pests and diseases through importation of plant materials, a requirement of the World Trade Organisation.

Since Kenya is a big exporter of agricultural produce especially horticulture, tea and coffee, it was necessary to establish support mechanisms to smoothen movement of produce.

To test the efficacy of the facility before its launch, pest risk analysis was conducted on six crops including imported rice; wheat, beans, peas, broccoli and alliums for export.

Kephis’ mandate is to protect Kenya’s agriculture from pests and diseases that could have negative environmental and human health impact through the establishment of laboratories to monitor the quality and levels of toxic residues in plants, soils and other produce.

The institute also undertakes inspection, testing, certification, quarantine control and description of seeds and planting materials.

The East African

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