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FROZEN AVOCADO EXPORT MARKET

Kenya exported just one container of frozen avocadoes to China in 2020, says authority

By the end of 2020, only one out of 100 exporters had met the export requirements set by the Chinese government.

In Summary

• The Horticulture Directorate says Nyeri, Laikipia, Elgeyo Marakwet and Uasin Gishu are the counties to watch in avocado production in the next two years.

• The volume of avocado exported increased from 70.3 million kilos in 2020 to 84.5 million kilos in 2021.But the value decreased from Sh14.5 billion in 2020 to Sh14.4 billion in 2021.  

A farmer packs harvested avocados.
A farmer packs harvested avocados.
Image: ALICE WAITHERA

Kenya’s export market of frozen avocados to China is yet to pick up, horticulture directorate has said.

According to Benjamin Tito, director, Horticulture Crops Directorate under the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), most exporters have been unable to meet the stringent requirement to enjoy the market.

Speaking to the Star in an interview, Tito said in 2020, Kenya was only able to ship a single container of 20-foot tonnes of ripe frozen avocados against a big potential.  

In April 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping signed an agreement that would allow the export of frozen avocado. This would help control the fruit fly pest which is common in Kenya.   

Tito explained that the deal required export of frozen avocados at a temperature of between -7 degrees Celsius to -15 degree Celsius. 

"Once harvested, one is supposed to remove the outer cover and seed so you are left with the avocado itself. It is this part that is required to be packed and shipped and get to the China market at this temperature. Failure to this, the fruit will turn brown and this will compromise on quality," he said. 

He said the cold chain infrastructure is posing a big challenge to many exporters.

"Even for those who have been able to export, the bulk of the cost goes towards maintaining the temperatures so the profit margin is lean," said Tito. 

By the end of that year, only one out of 100 firms had met the export requirements set by the Chinese government.  

Tito said this market is yet to pick as the regulations are tough for many of the exporters because it calls for huge investment.

“There has also been travel restrictions to China but if this changes, we are likely to have a Kenyan delegation visiting China next year to work out on this,” he said.

The Ministry of Trade had started negotiations in 2019 to have the requirements eased to allow local exporters to enjoy the trade.

HCD horticulture performance report showed that the volume of avocado export increased from 70.3 million kilos in 2020 to 84.5 million kilos in 2021.

But the value of avocado exports decreased from Sh14.5 billion in 2020 to Sh14.4 billion between January to November 2021.  

Tito said overall, the volume of fruits exported increased from 99.5 million kilos in 2020 to 110.5 million kilos in 2021. This represented an 11 percent rise as compared to the same period in 2020.

“However, the value dropped from Sh17.75 billion to Sh17.57 billion in 2021, representing a one percent decrease,” he said.

He said the leading contributors to fruit exports this year were avocado, pineapple, and mango, and that news Counties are getting into avocado production.

Murang’a was the leading avocado producing County accounting for 31 percent followed by Kiambu, Nakuru, Kisii, Nyamira, Meru and Bomet.

“But Nyeri, Laikipia, Elgeyo Marakwet and Uasin Gishu are the counties to watch in avocado production in the next two years when the drop comes to bearing because they have nearly doubled the area under production,” said Tito.

“In 2020, Kenya was the leading exporter of avocado in Africa and it is among the top 10 world’s largest exporters but only exported 10 of its total avocado production. Leading destinations are Holland, France, United Kingdom, UAE and Saudi Arabia,” he said.