TANZANIA Horticultural Association (TAHA) is working overtime to ensure local fresh produce exporters conform to European Union (EU)'s new safety standards.
Horticulture as the non-traditional export crops has not only become a growth driver of Tanzania's stagnant agriculture and foreign currency earner, bringing home 764 million US dollars annually, but its value chain has created hope to majority poor, as a source of employment and income.
TAHA Group CEO, Ms Jacqueline Mkindi implores all exporters to be in touch with the association and the Ministry of Agriculture, Division of Crop Development, Department of Plant Health Services (PHS), the designated NPPO, to acquire phytosanitary certificates.
"We want to make sure exporters are issued with the phytosanitary certificates for the relevant products on time and to check if their systems are able to state the additional declarations in full wording" Ms Mkindi explains.
The EU, which is the leading importer, has amended its policy on the maximum residue levels (MRLs) by lowering permissible limits in food produce.
Precisely, the new EU market's MRL limits stand at 0.01 milligrammes per kilogramme (mg/kg) against the international standard that sets an MRL level of 2.0 mg/kg.
New requirements on beans and peas are waiting ratification before coming into effect in January 2020.
As a result, fear has gripped Tanzania horticultural farmers and exporters over risk of losing the lucrative EU market, if they do not conform to the new safety standards.
To make the cut, as it stands now, all exporters and their EU importing agencies would be compelled to pay $1,212 per consignment for inspection.
The EU has unwaveringly warned all countries to ensure all fresh produce meant for its market is free from harmful pesticides and conforming to the 'required MRLs'.
EU puts it clear that repeated failure to adhere to the newly set limits on toxin residue would result in licence cancellation.
Now, TAHA and her key partners are working closely with the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) that is mandated by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) to offer Phytosanitary certificates to help local exporters to navigate through the stringent EU rules.
TAHA's Standards and Food Safety Coordinator, Mr Eric Mwesigwa said as things stand, exporters of fresh fruits and vegetables, almost all shipments leaving the third country to EU markets from 14 December 2019, have to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate.
"Equally, a full wording of the relevant requirement should be mentioned under "Additional Declaration" on the phytosanitary certificate. It won't be enough to mention the specific article," he said.
It is understood; the import of Ullucus tuberosus and Momordica is provisionally prohibited from 14 December 2019.
In order to be exempted from the provisionally prohibition, a third country should submit an application and technical dossier to the European Commission.
TAHA is credited to have painstakingly developed horticulture from its humble beginning to a giant economic subsector.
TAHA's Chief Development Manager, Mr Anthony Chamanga said way back in 2006, there were less than 50 horticultural farmers in the country with insignificant production volumes for export markets.
As of now, TAHA had brought together over 2.5 million both large-scale and smallholders farmers into a single bloc fortified by a common set of business oriented interests.
With an annual growth rate of 12 per cent, the horticultural industry has turned into the growth driver of the entire Tanzania's agriculture.