Fresh produce exporters urged to tap UK market

Kenya mainly exports agricultural products such as fruits, flowers, vegetables, coffee, and tea to the UK.

Photo credit: Eric Matara | Nation Media Group

Fresh produce exporters have been urged to take advantage of a stop-gap trade deal between Kenya-United Kingdom (UK) to grow the country’s market share in the European nation.

Kenya mainly exports agricultural products such as fruits, flowers, vegetables, coffee, and tea to the UK and imports vehicles, machinery, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and electronics from the UK. The UK market accounts for 43 percent of total exports of vegetables from Kenya as well as at least 9 percent of cut flowers.

“We think we have done all the right things in Kenya to sustain a level of commitment to building what is necessary to foster growth to continue to build our infrastructure, to continue to work on our ICT, our tourism infrastructure, and committing to work on value addition,” Kenya’s High Commissioner Manoah Espisu, told a forum in London, organised by Bramex Logistics and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI).

Kenya signed an economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the UK on December 8, 2020, before it was ratified by the UK Parliament on March 5, 2021, and by the Kenya National Assembly on March 9, 2021.

Kenya is pursuing a new bilateral trade deal with the UK post-Brexit, hoping to cushion its economy after partner states of the EAC failed to conclude an EPA with the EU. Only Kenya signed and ratified the deal.

Until the end of the Brexit transition period, Kenya enjoyed duty-free, quota-free access to the UK’s markets through the EU’s Market Access Regulation (MAR). As the UK did not replicate the MAR at the end of the transition period, Kenya would have faced an increase in tariffs without a trade agreement or other measures in place.

“We need to access a larger share of this market in terms of fresh produce and what that means is that it translates to earning of foreign exchange in this country and we need to ensure that we push many products or facilitate trade to happen between Kenya and UK so that we can increase the revenue earned in this particular relationship,” KNCCI Mombasa chapter chief executive officer James Kitavi told participants.

Kenya's imports from the UK rose from Sh29.2 billion in 2020 to Sh33.6 billion in 2021, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s exports to the UK were valued at Sh49.4 billion with Kenya enjoying a trade surplus of Sh15.8 billion with the UK during the period.

“We looked at three specific product categories where there is the biggest opportunity. We looked at mixed vegetables which are your cut fresh and frozen vegetables. There is more that can be done in scaling that up” Robin George, a partner at Boston Consulting Group that partners with the UK government in trade promotion told the forum.