• The aim was to smuggle them out through Tanzania, considered a least
developed country, from which export duty unlikely to be charged.
• Harvesting of avocados has been suspended except for a two-month window
when they are nearly ripe. That is being determined
The Agriculture and Food Authority on Thursday confiscated four lorries carrying 32 tonnes of immature avocados to Tanzania for onward export for little or no duty.
The seizure and arrests came as the Horticulture and Crops Directorate under the Agriculture and Food Authority issued a notice suspending the harvest of avocados to allow for maturity.
On November 3, 2023, AFA suspended avocado exports for the 2023-24 fiscal year from Kenya to other destinations.
The regulator, however, gave a window for the closure and opening of harvesting avocados to allow for maturity or near-maturity.
Collins Otieno, HCD acting deputy director in charge of regulation and compliance, said the consignment was being moved via road from Kenya to Tanzania to facilitate export to other destinations.
“We managed to seize the vehicles full of immature avocados destined to our neighbouring country. The fruits are packaged in gunny and polythene bags, which is contrary to regulations," he said.
“We are yet to resume harvesting avocados after suspending the same on November 3, 2023. We have been carrying out a survey for the last week in all the growing counties to ascertain the maturity and estimated quantities and volumes.”
He spoke to the media after the arrest of truck drivers in Namanga.
Otieno said they received complaints that some traders have been transporting immature avocados to Tanzania, despite the suspension of harvest and exportation.
He said those involved in illegal export of immature avocados risk penalties,including fines and cancellation of their licenses.
Some traders are said to have been exporting avocados through Tanzania, which has tax exemptions due to its categorisation as a least-developed country, unlike Kenya, categorised as a medium-developed country.
Import duties are charged against produce from some more highly developed countries.
The vehicles carrying the fruits stored in polythene and gunny bags were intercepted at the Namanga border of Kenya and Tanzania by AFA security officials.
“Working on a tip-off, the officers impounded the trucks that belong to different Nairobi-based transport companies and were said to have transported the fruits from one of the leading producing counties,” he said.
Otieno said there are unscrupulous traders working with brokers on the ground who are cheating farmers to harvest immature fruits.
AFA, the food crops regulator, Otieno said, has been very consistent to ensure exporters comply with regulations.
Industry figures warned that the new trend, if allowed to grow, could hurt Kenya on the international market where it is considered to produce quality fruit.
“AFA will continue to enhance implementation of the Horticulture Crops Regulations, 2020, that even stipulates how avocados are supposed to be carried. Carrying the fruits in gunny bags and polythene bags enhances contamination and decay,” Otieno said.
“Avocados are supposed to be transported carefully in crates and cartons. Investigations are going on and the implicated transporter, once identified, will be subjected to standard penalties and licence will be revoked,” he said.
Last week, the directorate deployed officers in all avocado growing areas to undertake a survey to examining quantities and maturity levels of the fruit before lifting a two-month harvesting suspension.
The directorate has been monitoring avocado maturity trends and patterns and will provide further guidance after the survey in mid-January.
Kenya is a prominent avocado producer in Africa, with key export destinations such as the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, France and Spain.
In September 2023, Kenya deepened its presence globally after exporting its inaugural consignment of 400 kilogrammes of avocados to India.