Avocado farmers hopeful as first export hits Chinese market

15 local firms were cleared by Kephis on Friday

In Summary
  • Kenya harvests close to 240,000 tonnes of avocado per year
  • The country is expecting to earn at least Sh300 billion from the crop in the initial year
A farmer harvests avocados.
A farmer harvests avocados.

The first containers of fresh avocado from Kenya have arrived in China, a move that is likely to see farmers earn more than five folds from the crop.

The four initial containers sent by Shanghai Greechain and Sunripe Limited arrived in the Asian country after Beijing gave 15 firms in Kenya ta clean bill of health on Friday. 

On average, a fruit retails for Sh20 in Kenya but will earn at least Sh120 in China, promising good returns for farmers.

Kenya harvests close to 240,000 tonnes of avocado per year but only exports 85 tonnes due to high international hygiene and safety standards. 

Recent data published in the Kenya Economic Survey 2021 confirm that earnings from exports of horticulture produce increased by 3.9 per cent from Sh144.6 billion in 2019 to Sh150.2 billion in 2020.

Following Kenya's fresh Avocados access to China, the Chinese market is expected to consume 40 per cent of Kenya's Avocados and becomes Kenya's largest importer of fresh Avocados.

The firms said the fruits were carefully selected to ensure that the first batch of Avocados was recognized and praised by customers in China.

It is estimated that more than 50 containers can be exported to the Chinese market in the latter part of this year's harvest season, and more than 500 containers will be exported to China in the new harvest season in 2023, with the value of goods exceeding RMB 200 million (Sh3.5 billion).

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) early this week confirmed that the Chinese National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) had approved 15 orchards, nine packhouses and one fumigation facility to export fresh avocado to China.

Kakuzi, a Nairobi Securities listed firm is among the companies that got a nod to export to the Asian country. 

The firm produces, packs and exports a variety of green and black skin cultivars on its 900 hectares piece of land.  

Currently, Kakuzi mainly exports Hass and Pinkerton Avocado varieties, and now, this ratio stands at 15 per cent green skin and 85 per cent Hass.

A significant percentage of the export-grade Hass and Pinkerton is exported to the European market. 

Speaking when he confirmed the field harvests and pre-shipment preparation to the Chinese market phytosanitary specifications, Kakuzi PLC MD Chris Flowers described the Chinese market as highly discerning and quality conscious.

Flowers confirmed that local avocado growers, including small-scale out-growers and exporters, are well-positioned to explore the far east market as long as they adhere to the regulations laid down by Kephis.

"Currently, the Chinese market is relatively small compared to the European market. We hope that by exposing the discerning Chinese consumer to high-quality fruit from Kenya, that market will outpace the current exports into Europe," Flowers said.

He added that the potential to grow the Chinese market demand is huge; if high-quality standards for exports are maintained.

''With the introduction of new high-potential markets such as China, the value of horticultural exports is expected to grow, occasioning a positive economic ripple effect,'' Flowers said.

Although Kenya got an avocado export deal in 2019 when President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the country, there have been several hurdles that have delayed the process. 

Beijing strictly required Kenya to export only frozen avocado. It locked out the fresh produce due to the prevalence of fruit flies locally.

However, in January, China agreed to Kenya's fresh avocados after wide negotiations but listed several demands to be met by exporters.

Even though Kephis had completed an inspection of the firms that had applied for licenses to export the fruits, the process could not begin as the Chinese introduced another requirement that would see them carry out a different audit.

All the fresh avocado fruits meant for export must also comply with applicable Chinese phytosanitary (plant health) laws and regulations, health and safety standards and be free from any quarantine pests of concern to China.

The country is expecting to earn at least Sh300 billion from the crop in the initial year, further cutting the high trade deficit between the two nations that is in favor of China.

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