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Government on alert for Coconut Yellow necrosis disease

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) is currently conducting tests  and surveillance on coconut plants in the Coastal region following an outbreak of Coconut Yellow Necrosis disease in Coastal area of Mozambique.

According to KEPHIS Managing Director Prof. Theophilus Mutui the disease has already wiped out all the coconut trees in Mozambique affecting large parts of livelihoods in that country.

KEPHIS Managing Director Prof Theophilus Mutui, Director of Crop Management at the Ministry of Agriculture Douglas Kangi and Chairman of KEPHIS board Robin Achoki

Speaking today in Nairobi during the opening of the 3rd Phytosanitary Conference, Prof Mutui said if the disease is found in the coastal growing areas in Kenya it will mean logging off the trees, removing them and burning them.

“But I want to assure you that so far nothing has been reported but  the government is vigilant in case it happens,” he said .

Coconuts are produced in the six coastal counties of Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Mombasa, TaitaTaveta , Tana River with its  production having  significantly increased from 180 million nuts in 2007 to 260 million nuts reported in 2013 and to 300 million nuts in 2019.

Prof. Mutui noted that they are also surveilling a new variant of citrus greening disease which he termed severe on the citrus fruits and that is almost establishing in the coast regions to ensure it does not spread.

Kenya just like in the region and the world, he added is grappling with pests and has been experiencing quite a number of them such as a lethal necrosis disease, pests like desert locust and the fall army arm as well as fruit fly which has   been preventing Kenya from exporting mangoes.

He however said that the government has come up with hot water treatment technology especially for Mangoes and has moved ahead and even exported a batch to Italy and which has been accepted.

“We were able to export the first batch of treated mangoes, around 5 tonnes to Italy and they have been received and accepted. We are now upscaling the technology so that we regain the market for mangoes in Europe after we had imposed a self-ban,”Prof Mutui said.

He explained that for Mangoes, they have also established pest free areas in Makueni and are working with farmers to trap the pests.

The Country is now looking at Europe, UK and Germany for markets, Prof. Mutui said, adding that in the next one month they will be going for a mission in the UK and Germany to seek markets.

The MD further said that the country is struggling with False Codling Moth (FCM) which is posing an increasing threat to the export of roses and pepper but noted there are management measures being put in place.

KEPHIS MD Prof Theophilus Mutui speaking to the press

He noted that KEPHIS had also in April stopped importation of maize from Uganda and Tanzania because of aflatoxin and also oranges from Pakistan due to lack of an MOU.

“We have to conduct pest analysis to ensure that the crops we are exporting and also those coming in are pest free and if we find some disease existence, we ensure we treat in proper format such as using bromide, hot water treatment and also using system approach to mitigate,” he said

Mutui said that a delegation from KEPHIS two months ago visited South Korea and is negotiating on exporting avocado, chilies and other horticultural crops to that country.

The MD acknowledged that the impact of COVID-19 pandemic disrupted production of horticultural crops including exports but said progressively the condition has been improving and that the country has gone back to normal production with exports increasing from last year.

Douglas Kangi, Director of Crops Management in the Statement Department of Crop Development and Agricultural Research said, “Plant health is the lifeline of the food system. Without controlling the pests, even if you feed crops and make soil fertile you cannot achieve the desired goals”

He noted that in terms of crop protection, the Ministry has been carrying out training and capacity building counties on how to control transboundary pests as well as native ones.

“The overall mandate of the Ministry is to improve food security and improve farmers’ incomes and this we will do, reducing crop losses from 40 percent and bringing it down to 20 percent. We are not there yet but we are making strides, he said.

Kangi noted that the phytosanitary conference was being held at the appropriate time considering that matters plant health have taken centre stage in recent years globally due to interlinkages of production and safety of food, local and international trade and market standards

Today’s conference whose theme is “Enhancing Phytosanitary Systems for Healthy Plants, Safe and Sustainable Trade” aims to enhance the knowledge on phytosanitary matters among researchers, practitioners of plant health, Developmental Partners, National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs), government agencies, farmers, media, students and youth.

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