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Phytosanitary Services


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 Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). 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), and the Agricultural produce (Export) Act (Cap 319) provide the legal framework through which the authority carries out phytosanitary regulation service.

Phytosanitary 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 Phytosanitary and Biosecurity department are undertaken at: I.KEPHIS Headquarters: Import and export certification, Pest surveillance, Pest Risk Analysis, Trade and Standards, Pest Forecasting and laboratory diagnostic. II.Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity station at Muguga: Quarantine laboratory diagnostics, Post –entry quarantine, export certification, facilitation of exchange of clean germplasm III.Jomo Kenyatta, Mombasa and Eldoret airport, Mombasa and port and border points: Import /export controls, grading and inspection, surveillance

IV.Embu, Kisumu, Naivasha and Nakuru Offices: Farm export certification and post entry quarantine


KEPHIS will from time to time, based on the risk of introduction of pests from the import checks issue notification and emergency action.

Plant health laboratories offer the following services:

1.Diagnosis of pests/diseases found on plant materials intercepted at the point of entry for, verification of pest status of imported material prior to clearance.

2.Diagnosis of plant disease/pest problems on samples brought by farmers

3. Identification of the pathogens and pests causing plant damage

4.Advisory on disease/pest management strategies

5.Plant health reference laboratory for COMESA

6.Training various stakeholders in pest diagnostics both nationally and internationally

The station fulfils a very important phase of plant protection programme 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 meristem tips are cleaned 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. Plant quarantine is the regional reference laboratory for COMESA and centre of excellence for germplasm exchange

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.

Plant import regulations in Kenya fall into three broad categories:

  • Imports which are made under a permit issued by KEPHIS 
  • Imports which pass through quarantine
  • 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 based on the results of a Pest Risk Analysis. 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 injurious pests and disease 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 sugarcane plant material which must be imported through quarantine.

3. Prohibited material

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 the Kenya Plant Health 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 re-shipped 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 labelled, 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 a Director in the Ministry of Agriculture. The 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 approved by the National Biosafety Authority (NBA). The NBA board draws representation from the National Council of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, KEPHIS, local universities, environmental pressure groups, local and international research institutes. KEPHIS issue a permit for GM material upon approval by the NBA.

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 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.

Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI)

The collaborative activities include access to Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) tools, Plant Protection and Invasive Species compendiums, surveillance, pest diagnostics and plant health clinics The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

The collaborative activities mainly in pest surveillance and pest management International centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE)

The collaborative activities mainly in pest surveillance, capacity building on pest diagnostics and pest management

Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Industrial Crops Directorate

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.

Other collaborators at national level include: Kenya Agricultural & Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO), Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), National Biosafety Authority (NBA), Kenya Forestry Service (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), the National Commission For Science, Technology & Innovation (NACOSTI), and Universities offering agricultural training.


Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) is the Government Parastatal whose responsibility is to assure the quality of agricultural inputs and produce to prevent adverse impact on the economy, the environment and human health.