SMEs in the agribusiness sector have called on the government to help them establish external business links and set up a revolving fund to assist those looking to export produce.

Participants at an exporters forum held in Nairobi Wednesday said that helping the small scale sellers could triple Kenya’s export earnings from horticulture.

Local SMEs lack a seamless and well-funded platform to source produce and ship the same to foreign markets, putting them at a disadvantage compared to well-oiled multinational producers.

“Our partner businesspeople pledge payments upon receiving the shipment but we lack funds to source, package and ship the consignments. Our buyers pay upon arrival and many are unwilling to take the risk of upfront payments,” said Nancy Wakaba, chief executive of Modest Exporters.

Data from the Agriculture and Food authority shows that higher prices helped Kenya’s horticulture exports to hit Sh151.2 billion from a volume of 306.6 million kilogrammes, up from Sh144.58 billion in 2019, even though volumes then were higher at 328.34 million kilogrammes.

The forum, convened by the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), supported calls for joint foreign marketing missions saying Kenya should focus more on value addition for agro-based products for creation of more jobs and investments.

KNCCI president Richard Ngatia said they had mooted three programmes to support women and youth SMEs in fresh produce export ventures.

This will involve training on export readiness and facilitating business to business deals between members of KNCCI and partner chambers in the export markets.

“We are opening a KNCCI office in Dubai’s Sharjah city that will see Dubai business people directly linked to Kenyan SMEs doing the same business,” he said.

The forum attended by envoys from Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, South Africa and UAE supported establishment of a business portal that will bring together verified fresh produce exporters enabling buyers from anywhere in the world to log onto the trusted site.