The road is getting a little rough for Kenyan avocado traders, especially for the small scale farmers who constitute seventy percent of the growers. Kenya is Africa’s second largest producer of avocados after South Africa with thousands of large scale farmers planting avocado trees known as ‘green gold,’ cultivating over 7,500 hectares.
Avocado popularity around the world has grown in recent years due to increased awareness of its nutritious value and health benefits. Over the last seven years, Kenya has been fighting tooth and nail to have its avocado access the Chinese market in its full form and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Beijing in April unlocked the avocado export deal.
Small scale avocado farmers might not be able to tap into the China market due to stringent entry rules including freezing the fruits. China wants Kenyan farmers and traders to freeze the fruits to negative 30 degree Celsius after peeling off the skin and chill further to negative 18 degrees while in transit to the destination after Beijing became concerned over the presence of fruit flies in Kenya’s avocados.
These requirements according to Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), which will oversee the export of avocados, might limit small-scale farmers from accessing the market as the farmers will have to invest heavily in cold rooms to meet the set conditions.
“Inspectors from China who were here in March were concerned over fruit flies on our avocados and they only allowed us to export on condition that the fruits are frozen. If we do not comply, China will suspend the exports, however, continuous non-compliance will lead to a total ban,” said Kephis managing director Esther Kimani and that are working hard to ensure that the fruit flies are eliminated and have Kenya export fresh avocados to China.