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Horticultural produce lifts Kenya exports to US

Published date:
Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A strong demand for flowers, canned fruits and vegetables as well as textiles helped grow Kenya’s 2011 exports to the US with industry players projecting a better performance this year owing to a new range of products allowed to enter the key market.

Exports to America, both under the ordinary trade and the preferential African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) initiative, totalled Sh31.6 billion last year compared to Sh28.5 billion in 2010 mainly supported by shipments of agricultural produce and textiles, new data by the US International Trade Commission shows.

“The uptake of our canned fruits and vegetables alongside flowers in the US has been growing and we expect even better performance when we start exporting five species of fresh vegetable that were recently cleared by authorities there,” Dr Stephen Mbithi, CEO of the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya said.

Kenya was recently cleared to begin exporting fresh green beans, runner beans, baby carrots, baby corn and shelled beans into the US market.

Kenya trade with America is mainly anchored on the Agoa initiative, which was mooted to supplement then existing US trade arrangements with developing nations and sought to expand duty-free benefits that were previously only available under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

Several Kenyan products, notably apparel and agricultural produce are big beneficiaries of this arrangement in which import duty is lifted on all eligible African products and preferential market access granted upon compliance with set Rules of Origin.

Though the Act originally covered the eight-year period from October 2000 to September 2008, amendments signed into law by then US President George Bush in July 2004 further extended it to 2015 — allowing the beneficiaries more time to engage in business.

Statistics also show that duty-free access to the US market under the combined Agoa and GSP programme currently covers about 7,000 product tariff lines, in addition to about 1,800 product tariff lines that were added to the GSP system when the Agoa legislation came into place.

The products lines include agricultural produce, wine, footwear, selected motor vehicle components, chemicals, steel and apparel.

Last year, Kenya exported agricultural produce worth Sh7.9 billion compared to the previous year’s Sh6.5 billion, representing a growth of 21.5 per cent.

“About five per cent of our annual flower out put is now exported to the US market and that has helped boost the overall export numbers,” Dr Mbithi said.

The US has also become an important market for Kenya specialty tea varieties such as the black and green orthodox tea, green tea and white tea. Kenya’s market share in the US is currently at two per cent with black tea forming about 83 per cent of the market share and the bulk of it is the orthodox type of tea. Green and other teas account for 17 per cent.

Textile and apparel exports to the US market remained strong last year and fetched Sh21.6 billion compared to the previous year’s Sh16.7 billion.

“Textiles exports to the US continue to be strong but we hope we will be allowed to export goods made from imported input after this year,” Bipin Patel, a textile dealer said.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Kenya's bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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