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Surge in Kenyan horticultural earnings

Kenya made US$1.1 billion from the flower, fruit, vegetable and nut exports in 2011, according to a report by USAID Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project (KHCP)

East Africa's largest economy's earnings from horticulture exports rose by 18 per cent last year, despite a slight fall in volumes, boosted by a favourable exchange rate and strong prices for vegetables and fruits.

"Our farmers need to diversify their activities and venture into horticultural farming instead of relying on maize and wheat where earnings are low. This is an important sector in which we need to invest more," said Kenyan agricultural minister Sally Kosgey.

Earnings from horticulture was 11 per cent of the 25 per cent contributed by agriculture to the country's GDP last year and the government has been planning to introduce new measures to boost the sector. A new legal framework has been developed to ensure effective operations of the Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA), Kosgey added.

KHCP stated there was scope for further production growth in 2012, especially in the flower sector, which made up the bulk of the earnings for the industry. This was despite fears that export earnings could fall below target due to the European economic crisis.

Horticulture is one of Kenya's leading source of foreign exchange and the country had exported 382,638 tonnes in 2011.