The international exchange of germplasm and trade/movement of plants and plant products is crucial in the quest for adequate food production and supply. There being a need to ensure that foreign injurious pests, diseases and noxious weeds which do not exist in Kenya are not introduced in the country, Kenya has a very stringent plant introduction and certification procedures since the 1930s when the plant quarantine services were started in East Africa. Initially, Plant quarantine services were conducted under the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1996, a state corporation (Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, KEPHIS) was established to vigilant for the Government, business sector, scientists and farmers on all matters related to plant health and quality control of agricultural inputs and produce. Through the activities of KEPHIS, the introduction of plant pests, diseases and noxious weed into Kenya is prevented or delayed. All phytosanitary measures are based on international standards as in the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations and guidelines. The Plant Protection Act (CAP 324), the suppression of Noxious weeks (Cap 325), and the Agricultural produce (Export) Act (Cap 319) provide the legal framework through which the authority carries out phytosanitary regulation service.
Plant protection services ensure that foreign injurious pests, diseases and noxious weeds which are no existent in Kenya are not introduced or spread when importing plant material into the country.
The operations of the Plant Protection Service department are undertaken at:
- Plant Health Clinics - KEPHIS Headquarters
- Plant Quarantine station - Muguga
- Grading and Inspection
- Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
- Moi International Airport
- Mombasa Sea Port
- Eldoret Airport
- Border Points
Plant health clinics offer the following services:
- Diagnosis of pests/diseases found on plant materials intercepted at the point of entry
- Diagnosis of plant disease/pest problems on samples brought by farmers
- Identification of the pathogens and pests causing plant damage
- Advisory on disease/pest management strategies
- Train students and farmers on areas related to crop protection
The plant pathology clinic diagnoses disease and nematode problems in plant and soil specimens, carries out identification of the pathogen, and then advises farmers on disease management (prevention/control) options.
The entomology clinic has an insect collection database that serves as an important referral collection on taxonomy and advisory service from crop pests in Kenya. Pest damage problems on crops are diagnosed at the clinic, pests identified and appropriate preventive and control measures recommended to the client.
The station fulfils a very important phase of plant protection progrmme during the transfer of plant genetic materials by preventing the introduction of plant pest, disease and noxious weeds. Latent infections of seeds and other plant preparative organs with viruses, fungi, bacteria or nematode may occur even after treatment; at the plant quarantine imported high risk plant materials are grown under observation for certain period of time before they are released to the importer. This reduces the chances of introduction of harmful pathogens.
Viruses infected breeders' seed or high value plant materials are cleaned through themotherapy and chemotherapy. Meristem tips of the treated plants are then cultured to produce disease free material.
Plant inspectors from the quarantine station visit farms during the crop growing period to certify that phytosanitary conditions specified by the importer are adhered to. If the fields are certified to be free from the specified diseases or pests, then a phytosanitary certificate is issued to indicate the health status of the plant material at the time of the inspection.
This section offers regulatory service to imported and exported plant materials at exit/entry points. The plant inspectors ensure that the plant produce being exported or imported into the country is of high quality. Phytosanitary certificates are issued for export consignments meeting the quality standards. Plant materials failing to meet the standards are destroyed or prohibited from leaving or entering the country.
Import of Plant & Plant Products in Kenya
Plant import regulations in Kenya fall into three broad categories
Imports which are made under a permit issued by KEPHIS
Imports which must pass through the quarantine station
Importations which are prohibited under all circumstances
1. Imports under which a permit only is required
In this group, the importation of a particular plant is permitted because of the plant materials known to carry little phytosanitary risk. Imports are permitted from certain clearly defined areas of the world only. however, importation of the same species from other areas may be prohibited. This is because either an important disease does not occur in certain areas, or the agricultural services of that country are efficient and can be relied upon to certify plant material as from pest/disease. The conditions for import are indicated on the import permit.
2. Imports which must be quarantined
In this group, importation carries a risk of introducing dangerous organisms. For the majority of plants and seeds that require quarantine, known diseases are extremely difficult to detect and the plant material carrying them may appear vigorous and healthy. an example is a sugarcane which must be imported through quarantine.
3. Imports which must be quarantined
Importations of these materials carry very high risks and for this reason, plant material included here may not be imported under any circumstances. Examples are paddy rice, vegetative materials of certain legumes such as cowpea, soybeans, lucerne and lentils.
Procedures for Importation of Plant Materials
Importation of any form of plant material into Kenya is subjected to strict specified conditions outlined in Kenya's Plant Import Permit as follows:
- All plant importers intending to bring plant material into Kenya should obtain a Plant Import Permit from Kenya Plant Inspectorate Service. The plant import permit is issued after careful appraisal of the risk involved in importing the intended plants or plant products. The permit specifies the requirements for plant health, indicating prohibitions, packaging, conditions for release at the point of entry, and other additional declaration with regard to pre-shipment treatments. The original permit must reach the plant health authorities in the country of origin for strict adherence to Kenya permit requirements.
- Any plant consignment arriving into Kenya must be accompanied by a copy of a Plant Import Permit and a Phytosanitary Certificate which verifies that a competent authority in the exporting country examined the plant material for pests and diseases prior to their leaving the country and that the plant materials meet Kenya's phytosanitary requirements.
- Plant material arriving in Kenya without authority and correct accompanying documents are not allowed entry and may be destroyed or reshipped at the owner's cost.
- All imported plant material must be declared to a plant inspector at any point of entry. Plant inspectors have been stationed at all major entry points into Kenya.
- Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with the regulations shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment or both.
- Import permit: The exporter should get an import permit detailing phytosanitary requirements from the importing country.
- Issuance of phytosanitary certificate: Phytosanitary certification is done to ensure that all exported Plant and Plant products are in conformity with the requirement of the importing country. Inspection and other related activities leading to the issuance of phytosanitary certificates are carried out y KEPHIS plant inspectors.
Active growth inspections of plants destined for export
KEPHIS Plant inspectors normally visit commercial growers and farmers of various agricultural and horticultural crops during the active growing period. They ensure compliance with the phytosanitary requirements of the importing country on freedom from certain diseases or pests during the growing period and compliance to safe use of pesticides.
Inspection at exit/entry points
KEPHIS undertakes inspection of the plants and plant products at the points of entry/exit. Inspection of all material for export is done to ensure compliance with the recommended quality standards. It may be visual, microscopic, or a combination of both on plants/plant products at airports, seaports, mail, and border posts. Usually, samples are inspected according to the type and volume of the commodity. Inspection levels are determined by the assessed risk of the commodity.
When inspecting at the exit/entry points, the following standards are checked:
- Freedom from pests/pest damage
- Freedom from diseases/disease damage
- Maximum Residue Levels compliance
- Has no physiological disorders
- Properly graded (size, color, shape, etc.)
- Has no excessive moisture
- Whole (No mechanical damage)
- Packaging (clearly labeled, clean and well ventilated)
Biological Control Organisms
The importation of biological control agents of any nature is first vetted by the Kenya Standing Technical Committee for Imports and Exports (KSTCIE) chaired by the Director of Agriculture. KEPHIS Managing Director is the secretary of the committee. Plant inspectors from KEPHIS inspect the containment premises of biological control organisms and ensure strict adherence to import conditions as specified by KSTCIE.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Application of importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is considered by Kenya National Biosafety Committee (NBC) which draws experts from the National Council of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, KEPHIS, local universities, environmental pressure groups, local and international research institutes. KEPHIS enforces the regulations and guidelines for safety in biotechnology as stipulated by the NBC.
KEPHIS collaborates with various institutions in the promotion of sustainable agricultural and economic growth.
Some of our collaborators include:
The International Potato Center (CIP)
CIP has collaborated with Plant Quarantine Station since the late '90s in virus cleaning up and multiplication of disease-free potato germplasm for distribution in Easter African countries.
Collaboration with Sisal Board/UNIDO
At the plant quarantine station, tissue culture systems for culturing disease-free and rapid multiplication of sisal and other Agave species are developed and used.
Collaboration with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
The collaborative activities include upgrading of the Plant Quarantine facilities, germplasm acquisition, clean up of virus-infected material, and facilitation of exchange of germplasm within the Eastern Africa region.
Collaboration with the Pyrethrum Board of Kenya
The project dated back to the '90s and it involves rapid multiplication of disease-free material of new pyrethrum cultivars that are released by the breeders.
Collaboration with Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)
KEPHIS collaborates with KARI in carrying out surveys for pest risk analysis and in the acquisition of relevant crop protection information through research.