A Kenyan Success Story: Horticultural Exports
The first independent government of Kenya created the Horticultural Crops Development Authority in 1967 to coordinate various units in the industry, which coupled with significant international investment in the Kenyan horticultural sector to spur an increase in production. Del Monte invested in Kenyan pineapples, but a lack of diversification of exports and emphasis on inexpensive, seasonal, unprocessed commodities harmed Kenyan farmers when world commodity prices fell sharply in the 1970s (Minot and Ngigi 2004). However, increasing migration caused an increase in demand for Asian vegetables from the West. Kenya, which has long had a significant Asian population, could now supply a variety of vegetables, year round, instead of on a seasonal basis (Minot and Ngigi 2004).
Although pineapples still form the bulk of Kenyan exports, the fruit is now canned or juiced in Kenya—adding value to the initial raw product. Prepared fruits and vegetables also play an important role in Kenyan exports. By 1988, Kenya was the main supplier of fresh and chilled vegetables to the 12 countries then in the European Union (Dolan et al. 1999). From relying almost entirely on pineapples in the late-1960s, Kenya now exports 30 different fruits and 27 vegetables, including tea, Asian vegetables, French beans, and cut flowers (Thiru 2000). In 2004, Kenya exported bouquet-ready cut flowers worth $231.9 million, of which only $1.528 million were to firms in the United States (UNSTAT 2006). In fact, Kenya is the main supplier of cut flowers to Europe. In the same year, Kenya exported fresh beans worth $88.9 million, primarily to the United Kingdom and France while the United States bought only a negligible share (UNSTAT 2006). Kenyan exports of tea reached $462 million in 2004—the majority sold to Pakistan, Egypt and the United Kingdom. Most Kenyan teas are CTC grade and can be blended with Assam and Darjeeling teas for a more flavorful and aromatic blend.
Many supermarkets in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe now directly source fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenyan growers, thereby cutting out the wholesaler, which in turn reduces cost and speeds up the process or procurement (Dolan et al. 1999). These supermarkets are also involved in the certification process imposing requirements on how these fruits and vegetables are produced and processed through the supply chain (Dolan et al. 1999).
The Kenyan Fresh Produce Exporters Association has established a Code of Practice for growers (FPEAK 1999), which includes guidelines on everything from employment practices and chemical application procedures, to a documentation process that ensures the traceability of produce being handled by the exporter. The extent and success of this collaboration between Kenyan producers and European consumers suggests that there is much scope for similar agricultural trade between the United States and Africa.
There exist several tangible opportunities for Western markets to connect to African producers to source such value-added products, perhaps at lower prices than from other developing countries. Through certification and identity preservation, importers can add value to agricultural goods from poor countries and convert, for example, generic coffee from Kenya into branded organic free trade coffee that sells for a higher price in Western markets.