French beans farming in Kenya – BY GEORGE MBAKAYA: French beans are among the most widely grown vegetables for export in Kenya. In Europe, production season lasts from July to September (summer) a period during which the imports decrease.
This in turn presents opportunities to suppliers who are capable of supplying quality produce in high volumes. But it’s not as easy as one may assume; as a new exporter; you must learn the ropes.
Capitalise on off season
Concentrate on supplying beans in the off-season, but make sure your produce quality is flawless. If you are unable to compete with the producers of the leading varieties, try to establish your niche.
For a start, you can capitalise on more exotic varieties and those liked by the export market.
In addition, use excellent seasonal planning and logistics through co-operatives and contract farming.
Note that Europe is very strict on food safety, therefore to penetrate this market, you must comply with various legal and safety requirements.
These requirements are opportunities in disguise for producers who are determined to distinguish themselves by applying extra or niche market quality standards.
Limit pesticide use
The European Union has set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides in and on food products. Products containing more pesticides than recommended levels are outrightly rejected in the market.
In fact, buyers in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria use MRLs which are stricter than those laid down in European legislation.
To achieve extra high quality and safety standards, producers are advised to apply Integrated Pest Management which can considerably reduce the amount of pesticides. It involves use of natural pest control practices such as the application of pests’ natural enemies. The fewer chemicals you use, the better your selling point.
Maintain good hygiene practices during production to avoid microbiological contamination. Your produce should be free of substances such as salmonella and E.coli. The export market regulation provide information about testing, sampling and measuring units.
Be on top of quality!
Contact the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) to understand the conditions in which you can export your produce.
The European Union has laid down phytosanitary requirements to prevent the introduction and the spread of organisms harmful to plants and plant products in Europe. Equally, the pods or seeds must be fresh and intact.
Packaging and transport
However, some varieties may have their ends removed. Ensure the produce is not affected by rotting or deterioration. The produce must be practically free of pests or damage caused by pests and free of any foreign smell and/or taste.
Familiarise yourself with the export procedures. Failure to follow the right procedures could decrease or delay orders and increase costs.
Ensure the accompanying documents (Bill of Lading) correspond to the products contained in the consignment, including volumes, classes and sizes, number of pallets and boxes, names of growers, lot number for traceability and country of origin.
Confirm agreements with your buyer on delivery and payment terms, product specifications and certifications.
Make reference to international code of practice for packaging and transport of French beans for package specifications. Packaging size may differ according to the customer’s request.
French beansare supplied in cartons of 4–5 kg. Nevertheless, a wide variety of containers and sizes are used in the market.