More Kenyans eating healthy foods, new research shows

Agriculture expert says the demand for organic food has risen sharply by 500 per cent

In Summary

• There has been an increasing demand of 100 per cent for consumption of organic foods.

• Experts said the high cost and availability of organic food is  big challenge in the Kenyan market.  

Eating a vegetarian diet isn't always healthy and some may increase the risk of heart disease.
A vegetarian dish Eating a vegetarian diet isn't always healthy and some may increase the risk of heart disease.

The demand for organic food in Kenya has increased by 500 per cent, an expert has said. 

Globally, consumption of the food has increased by 100 per cent from 2008 to date.

Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (Pelum) programme operations manager Rosinah Mbenya yesterday said more consumers are eating healthy food. 

She spoke during the closure of the 1st International Agroecology Conference held in Nairobi.

Mbenya said recent report by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements in East Africa showed the people eating organic foods has increased over the years from an average of 10 per cent to 59 per cent.

However, she said consumers have been grappling with the ability to be able to verify whether the food in the market is organic non-organic.

“Certification processes are going on. We have the participatory guaranteed systems for the local market. We also have internationally recognised certification systems. Consumers can be able to differentiate the products and be sure they are eating organic products,” Mbenya said.

Some products in the market are labeled organic, but many of them have not been certified as having been produced organically.

Mbenya said although the demand for organic food is high, people shy away from buying them because they are very expensive in the Kenyan market. 

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development project coordinator Malicke Kane said in 2017, the global market for organic products was valued at US$97 billion (Sh9.7 trillion).

The US tops the list with a market value of Sh4.5 trillion, followed by the European Union at Sh3.9 trillion, China is third at Sh860 billion and Canada fourth with Sh340 billion.

Kane said the high market value of organic food is due to a sharp growth of the middle-class population in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has increased to 100 million people.

He said some of the most traded organic food in the US is milk, salad, eggs, chicken and apples.

“Some of the organic products exported to the EU from Africa include tropical fruits, vegetables, cereals, fish, nuts and roasted coffee,” Kane said.

In East Africa, roots and tubers, herbal teas, supplements and honey are the preferred organic foods.

According to a survey carried out in 2017 by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, awareness of organic foods had improved by 10 per cent since 2013.

“Awareness was highest in Uganda at 58 per cent, Burundi at 48 per cent, Rwanda at 45 per cent, Kenya at 29 per cent and Tanzania at 20 per cent,” the report read.

The survey showed that the cost and availability are barriers to consumption of organic food.

“These need to be addressed in order to realise increased consumption of organic foods. Open air markets have been observed as the preferred shopping venues  for organic consumers followed by supermarkets and organic farmers’ markets,” the survey said.

“Most consumers are generally willing to purchase organic products if the prices are either lower, at par with other products or even slightly more expensive. However, if organic products are significantly more expensive, then consumers will not buy them.”

(Edited by P. Wanambisi)