No room for immature avocados

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Horticultural Crops Directorate held a consultative meeting with avocado exporters and stakeholders in the industry. The avocado industry which takes 70% of the exports, contributes much on the Big 4 Agenda . “The value chain affects all of us, the government has to facilitate the business people. Whatever we do we impact our country and we have to tackle our issues such pests and diseases, noncompliance on the export requirements.” Says Grace, Head of Director representative.

 In a 2018 report released on the status of avocado maturity a total of 318,600 metric tons were exported with Murang’a county leading at 42%, Kiambu 11.4%, Kisii 7.2%, Nyamira 5.2%, Bomet 3.6% Embu 3.6% and Meru 3.5%.

 HCD visited farms randomly in Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Machakos, Kiambu, Meru and Nakuru counties to ascertain the maturity levels of Hass and Fuerte. Each region was classified as either a tea or coffee zone, where they picked random samples for weight and oil content analysis where necessary.

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The reopening of the avocado exports on the Hass and Fuerte varieties issue was of major concern. The harvesting of the varieties had been closed as from 15th November 2019 to 15th march 2020 with restrictions. However, no restrictions on the jumbo variety.

Putting into consideration the climate change effects and also having different Agro-ecology zones which would affect the fruit performance and the varietal differences the opening dates for the avocado harvests would be as –

Coffee zone:   Hass                                 Fuerte                                        Jumbo

                       22nd march                        15th February                               N/A

Tea zone:           1st April                         25th March                                  N/A

“we made various observations such as the prevalence of black spots in the coffee zones, at the time of the survey the fruits were immature expect for pockets of farms that had not been interfered with. The next season crop was also delayed.” Says Josephine Simiyu HCD.

Issues on the raids that had been conducted by Avocado Society of Kenya took center stage, with some exporters taking into issue the claims of them packing avocados which were false, but Ernest Muthomi of the Avocado Society of Kenya retaliated that he had to take the matters into his own hands to ensure everyone complied to the set regulations by HCD.

Some of the exporters recounted their experiences with the avocado buyers on the quality of the avocados Kenya exported, one exporter talked of an incident where a buyer claimed that the avocados sold to them from Kenya were rubbish compared to other countries such as Peru. Another exporter said the Kenyan exporters lacked one voice on the set price for the avocado exports, each exporters has their own price compared to their competitors who agree on the set price for exports.

The government called on the exporters to be self-policing and maintain ethics in the business. “We have a lot issues in court between exporters and buyers involving payments, incase as an exporter you have issues with your buyer and you are found guilty we have no option but to deregister you.” Says Ms. Simiyu. HCD would conduct avocado quality grass root campaigns aimed at sensitizing farmers.

Hosea Machuki ,CEO, Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) , said ” Being 1st in Africa and 7th in the world in Avocado exports we need to support our small holder farmers.” Machuki called upon the exporters to ensure the avocados harvest were mature and of the best quality. The Association also asked HCD to allow the export of the Jumbo variety with a rider of 100% inspection.

Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya ,CEO, Okisegere Ojepat, CEO, called upon the exporters to ensure the abide to all the set rules, “we have a responsibility as exporters of self-regulation and we need to agree on a certain price on the export of our avocados and all exporters need to belong to an association .”Said Ojepat. He suggested during the closure window, no shipments by sea would be done but rather sell by air with a rider of 100% inspection.

The Avocado Exporters Association called upon the exporters to be credible people who can self-police themselves.   Ernest Muthomi of the Avocado society of Kenya, echoed the same sentiments, “solution to immature avocados lies with us and we have to deal with it immediately, we have to protect our markets.”

 HCD asked the exporters to issue a 24-hour notice  for the export of Jumbo variety  so they can arrange for the inspection logistics at their pack house.

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