• Potential losses for Kenya could amount to as much as 40 per cent of cut flower sales due to the moth infestation, says Flower Council.
• Kenya earned Sh113 billion in 2018 from the cut flower industry, accounting for 73.6 per cent of total fresh horticultural earnings, but the moth has caused an increase in rejected imports.
The government and horticulture industry are rushing to eradicate a moth that has caused the EU to ban some horticultural products.
Clement Tulezi, who is CEO of the Kenya Flower Council, said the false coddling moth is now present on more than 70 host plant crops including roses, citrus fruits and capsicum.
Its larva burrows into fruits, flowers and other plants.
The infestation has prompted a surge in rejection of Kenyan exports by the European Union. An EU review could result in more flower and horticultural products being turned away.
Tulezi said producers are working with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis), the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) and the Netherlands government to solve the problem.
He said active ingredients to kill the pest have been identified and the PCPB is carrying out more tests.
"We cannot afford to lose the market,” Tulezi said.
The EU defines the false coddling moth as a quarantine pest, meaning fresh produce containing the moth cannot be allowed into the European market.
Random checks of fresh imports from Kenya have found increasing numbers to be FCM-infested, with rose exports, in particular, driving a sharp increase in rejected consignments.
In January 2018, the EU began checking one in every 20 rose consignments from Kenya for infestation by the moth, but increased that checking rate to one in every 10 consignments last year.
Experts estimate potential losses for Kenya could amount to as much as 40 per cent of cut flower sales.
The ministries of Trade and Foreign Affairs held a crisis meeting last week with agricultural industry players to seek ways to tackle the infestation.
Kenya earned Sh113 billion in 2018 from the cut-flower industry, accounting for 73.6 per cent of total fresh horticultural earnings.
But, according to Europhyt Interceptions, the moth has caused a jump in rejected imports since then, predominantly of roses, peppers and baby's breath flowers.
Altogether, the total number of interceptions by the EU of infested Kenyan fresh produce imports increased from 59 in 2017, to 89 in 2018, and 97 in 2019. In the first six months of 2020, 53 consignments were stopped, showing a continuing acceleration in the trade rejections, Tulezi said.
Of the 97 interceptions in 2019, 52 were stopped due to FCM, of which 40 were of roses, 11 of capsicum, and one was of baby's breath flowers. A further 23 consignments of roses have been stopped due to the moth from January to June this year.
Eric Kimunguyi, the CEO of the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya, said key active ingredients to eradicate the moth have been registered with the PCPB and all products containing the ingredients have been fast-tracked for approval.
The PCPB has listed Spinetoram, Acephate, Acetamiprid and Abamectin for roses, and Lufenuron, Chlorantraniliprole, Indoxacarb and Abamectin for capsicum.
“We are urging all growers to work with Kephis to identify and eradicate the moth before it does irrevocable damage to our flower and horticultural industry.
"The sector is already beset with competition and market strains during the Covid-19 pandemic. The decline underway as this moth gains grounw needs to be urgently stopped,” Kimunguyi said.
(Edited by V. Graham)