AGRICULTURE Secretary Felix Koskei has suspended two senior officials over fresh produce from Kenya with high chemical contents intercepted by the European Union.
Although the Agriculture ministry did not respond to our calls, a memo seen by the Star showed that the officials suspended are Grace Kyalo, the acting managing director of the Horticultural Crops Development Authority and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate managing director Dr James Onsando.
Onsando was sent on compulsory leave for 62 days, while Kyalo will be away for 67 days as the ministry carries out a "comprehensive investigation on the issues raised by the European Union".
In the letter to Onsando, Koskei has directed him to hand the office to Dr Esther Kimani, while Kyalo's responsibility will be taken over by Zakayo Magara, the deputy director of Agriculture.
The EU has already withdrawn licences to 11 horticulture firms over high levels of pesticides and other harmful organisms in their produce. Kenya has a September 30 deadline from the EU to comply with maximum residual limits rules (MRLs).
The EU has accused the local producers and exporters of consistently shipping produce that contain high levels of maximum residuals limits. This is contrary to new trading requirements by the EU, developed out of consumer preferences in the EU.
The Horticultural Crops Development Authority and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate are supposed to enforce this requirement. But despite the warnings, the European Commission has intercepted a number of exports with high chemical content.
The CS has on several occasions questioned the competency of the state agencies charged with inspecting fresh produce before shipping. Failure to comply means that Kenya will automatically lose the opportunity to benefit from the high-end EU market. More than 150,000 farmers export fresh produce to the EU, which is 10 per cent of all horticulture farmers.