Vegetable, fruit export to EU dips
Export of fruits and vegetables to the European Union (EU) fell significantly over the first seven months of the year. No less than 143 consignments have been rejected by EU authorities on the grounds that there is lack of proper and, in some cases, fake documentation. Phytosanitary certificates (PC) were either missing or altered by some exporters in a bid to enter the common market. Beyond this, there have been cases of improper hygiene standards. The prevalence of pests and non-compliance of health and safety standards has all colluded to put us in this mess.
According to what has been reported in this paper, EU authorities have warned the government that it risks the banning of all vegetable exports unless it does something to address current health concerns. Although our authorities have submitted a plan of action last May, there are a number of areas that have to be addressed to detect and deal with anomalies. One such area is the lack of automation, i.e. no database that tracks produce of registered growers. The lack of coordination between various agencies like customs and cargo handling officials at the airport all help to let the situation aggravate which only works in favour of errant exporters.
Given that our export to the EU in this category has fallen by 38 per cent to around $150 million annually, urgent action is required to put in place a mechanism whereby all relevant agencies involved work energetically to halt falsification of documentation and maintain required health and safety standards.