Kenya-China avocado exports grow despite low production

Kenya’s avocados are valued for quality, oil content and dry matter

In Summary

• Small-scale farmers struggle to meet stringent measures stipulated by export market 

• Despite this, supply has risen by more than 5,000 per cent but is still below demand

A farmer harvests avocados.
EXPORTS: A farmer harvests avocados.
Image: FILE

Barely eight months since China allowed Kenya to export fresh avocado, the country has so far exported 1.7 million kilos worth Sh7 billion to the Asian market.

Daniel Louis, from Menengai Oil Refineries Limited, said they are among the 15 avocado orchards in Kenya that are registered to export avocados to China.

He told the Star during an interview that they run 380 acres of avocados that were planted in 2019 and are still planting more avocados for the export market.

Loius said they made their first harvest in 2022 and they managed to export to Europe and China.

“We exported about 50 metric tonnes of avocados to China and 650 tonnes to the European market,” he said.

“The China market is relatively lucrative and Kenyans should jump into it as fast as they can because the country has the best avocados in the world.

“Kenya’s avocados are tasty and they are preferred in the market and everyone is looking for our fruits.”

Loius said there is to sensitise smallholder farmers on how to grow the fruits properly so that we can enjoy the market. We also need to maximize the opportunities we have because the time is now,” he said. 

He said they are looking into contracting smallholder farmers to grow more avocados so they can be able to push more volumes into the China market.

Avocado farmer Robert Mburu in his orchard in Murang'a county.
Avocado farmer Robert Mburu in his orchard in Murang'a county.
Image: Alice Waithera
The China market is relatively lucrative and Kenyans should jump into it as fast as they can because the country has the best avocados in the world
Daniel Louis


Loius said they have recently established a packing house and they are hoping to encourage farmers to come into groups so the company can buy from them.


“For one to export to China, your phytosanitary standards must be on top,” Louis said.   

“You must ensure your orchard is free from pests. To do this, you must ensure you grow your fruits in a biological manner. This is the best way to go about in order to avoid using harsh chemicals. You must take care of the ecosystem or environment.”

He said the export market demands stringent measures, which may sometimes pose a challenge to small-scale farmers.

“But the requirements are not difficult for anyone willing to get into the export market,” he said.

Christine Miriko, founder of Emmeli Global Farm Fresh based in the UK, said she deals in the export of fresh produce within the diaspora.

She said the organisation is led and founded by women and they deal with the exportation of fresh produce, and currently, they are majoring in the avocado export market into Europe, the Middle East and China.

Miriko said she gets her produce directly from farmers and she has more than 800 farmers whom she helps to link to the market.

She said the China market is proving to be positive despite the fact that they have stringent quality requirements because they want to begin their quality compliance assessment from the farms directly.

Facts around Avocado farming in Kenya./ROSA MOMANYI
Facts around Avocado farming in Kenya./ROSA MOMANYI

“China has a high population and this will provide a mega avocado market that Kenyans should utilise,” she said.

China is the tenth-leading importer of avocados globally, and with a population of more than 1.4 billion, this is likely to become Kenya’s next leading destination for fresh avocados, beating traditional market destinations like Europe and the Middle East.

Benjamin Tito, director of Horticulture Crops Directorate, said so far, Kenya avocados are the most preferred in the market after Mexico and Peru.

He said Kenya has exported 1.7 million kilos of avocado worth Sh7 billion since it was allowed to ship fresh produce to the Asian giant in August. This is after the protocol that was signed in 2018 requiring local traders to export frozen avocados was reviewed.

“The country earned Sh7 billion in three months, and this clearly shows that China is a great opportunity market destination that our avocado farmers should target,” Tito said.

Horticulture Crops Directorate director Benjamin Tito during a media interview
Horticulture Crops Directorate director Benjamin Tito during a media interview


In March, China allowed Kenya to export fresh avocado, which was a departure from the previous directive that required the country to export only frozen fruit.

But it is not until August when Kenya was able to export avocados to China that many of the registered orchards were able to meet the stringent regulatory requirements by the authorities in Beijing.

Tito said compared to avocados from giant producers like Mexico and Peru, Kenya’s avocados scored high based on quality, oil content and dry matter.

He said the avocado export market in China is huge and Kenya cannot meet the demand.

Tito explained that volumes have increased by more than 5,000 per cent to 1.3 million kilos as of the end of October, compared to 24,000 kilos in the 2021 production period.

“Earnings as of the end of October this year increased to Sh7 billion, with the last three months recording Sh1.7 billion. So far and based on the ratings, we have good reception in the China market,” he said.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), global avocado production between 2014-2015 was at 4.7 million tons and 5.8 million tons between 2015 and 2016.

Kenya is the seventh-largest producer of avocado in the world, and in 2020, the country surpassed South Africa and other African countries in avocado exports.

Data from FAO shows that global production has increased by 4.6 per cent and that the avocado market in China is booming and that demand from the American market is also increasing at a consistent but fast rate. 

Tito said the EU market has in the last decade been demanding adherence to stringent conditions, including not using banned chemicals.

“These stringent measures have compelled African countries to look for alternative markets. This year, a shipment of avocado was intercepted in an EU market suspected to have maximum residual levels. We managed to intervene and thus avocados being shipped to the EU are clean,” he said.      

Data from the Avocado Society of Kenya shows that Hass and Fuerte avocado varieties are suitable for growing in Kenya, with Hass being the most preferable variety.

A worker at Sunripe company packs Hass avocado for export.
A worker at Sunripe company packs Hass avocado for export.
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