Kenya Risks Losing Japan Coffee Market Over Bad Pesticides

Kenya is in danger of losing the Sh1.5 billion Japanese coffee market after Tokyo officials raised a red flag over the use of non-recommended pesticides in the produce.

According to the Japanese, samples of Kenyan coffee were found to contain Chlorpyrifos, an active ingredient found in insecticides that is not recommended for use in coffee.

According to the authorities, they detected 0.06 parts per million in the coffee sampled, which was higher than the required minimum of 0.05 percent.

Japan is currently Kenya’s sixth largest coffee importer, bringing in Sh1.5 billion in foreign exchange last year.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) managing director Theophilus Mutui confirmed that the Japanese authority found high levels of the said chemical in a coffee sample.

“Japan found that the levels exceeded the required minimum as set by the Japanese authorities and this is an issue of concern to us,” said Prof Mutui.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare now wants all coffee growers in Kenya, as well as fresh bean exporters, to conduct voluntary tests at warehouses and during product packaging.

Prof Mutui stated that the coffee was sampled from one of the largest exporters who had shipped a shipment to the Asian country.

Japan has increased the compliance checks for Kenyan coffee from around 10% to 30%, requiring exporters to incur significant costs in testing the consignments.

Prof Mutui stated that a high level of checks increases the likelihood of interceptions because more consignments may be flagged for exceeding the set limits.

According to the CEO, all relevant state agencies must work together to educate farmers on proper pesticide use in order to meet the standards set by importing countries.

South Korea banned Kenyan coffee in 2020 due to high levels of the chemical ochratoxin, which exceeded the allowable minimum, resulting in rejection at the two countries’ border points.

The Kenya Coffee Producers Association wants the government to address the problem, arguing that it could harm other importing countries as well.

“The flagging of Kenyan coffee by the key markets due to high levels of contamination does not augur well for the sector. The government has to move fast in addressing this challenge,” said Peter Gikonyo, the association’s chairperson.