The 2016 International Phytosanitary Conference was held at the KEPHIS headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya between 12 and 16 September 2016. The week long international conference attracted over 100 delegates from 40 countries who deliberated on pertinent issues touching on the health of plants, plant products and regulated articles. International Potato Center (CIP) was among the multinational organizations, agencies and Industry that had the chance to participate at the conference alongside IITA, AATF, Sygenta, International Flower Trade Association, CIMMYT among others.
The conference’s main theme, “Phytosanitary Regulation for Improved Food Security and Trade Facilitation” could not have come at a better time. This is because many nations are addressing challenges related to phytosanitary matters which have taken center stage in global discussions and trade in recent years, because of the negative effects of pests on agricultural production, and national growth and development. Africa and many other developing countries are dependent on agriculture as a source of livelihood, income and for employment creation. However, new pests are a major threat to Africa’s agriculture, so managing trade risk posed by these pests is a critical task which can only be managed by strong national and international phytosanitary systems and services.
During the official opening of the conference on Tuesday 13th September, KEPHIS Managing Director, Dr. Esther Kimani, welcomed participants while highlighting the need and relevance of the long awaited conference to chart the way forward regarding plant trade, to forge a common front in managing pests and diseases and for countries to come together and have clear communication regarding phytosanitary matters. She encouraged international discussions on phytosanitary matters stating, “We need to network and discuss so that we can open up markets for our produce.”
In his remarks, Dr. Richard Lesiyampe, the principal secretary, state department of agriculture said, “As Fluctuating weather patterns, the high cost of agricultural inputs, pests and diseases, imbalances of trade, increasing human populations that have taken up areas of farming and wildlife conflicts that damage crops in the field make it a challenge that must be overcome. All this makes food availability in many developing countries a challenge to overcome.” He added that these challenges compromise the quality and availability of food.
Globally, pests and diseases affect the quality of crops and reduce crop production by 33%. Challenges of a phytosanitary nature are a source of concern to ensuring access to markets for agricultural products. This is essentially the cause of loss of income leading to poverty. There is also a disruption and sometimes loss of international markets which affects trade between countries.
While governments are taking measures to mitigate the situation in terms of the control of peasts and diseases, researchers need to ensure that they work round the clock to come up with resilient crops that can withstand and resist diseases.
In encouraging nations to work together towards ensuring healthy plant production, Dr. Lesiyampe observed that, “there is increased need for inter-regional cooperation for promotion of harmonized phytosanitary measures for prevention of the spread and introduction of pests into Africa.”
European Union (EU) Head of Agriculture and Rural Development Section, Mr. Klaus Gausch, promised support from the EU in the phytosanitary area stating, “in order to help developing countries meet European Union sanitary and Phytosanitary standards, the EU offers trade related technical assistance”