By MURIMI GITARI
Export Promotion Council (EPC) Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Peter Biwott has welcomed the new stringent rules put up by the Chinese government in exportation of avocados to the Asian continent by saying they are a wake up call to value addition in the avocado industry.
Speaking during the launch of avocado production and marketing for small scale farmers at Kigwa Hotel and Conference in Kiambu County on 13th June, the EPC CEO said that the industry has to gear up in exporting frozen and peeled avocados as stipulated in the sanitary and phyto-sanitary rules by the Chinese government.
The conditions, according to Mr. Biwott, are opening farmers and exporters’ eyes to see the need of adding value to avocados with expectations of bringing more income from production.
“This is a business opportunity to be marketed for Kenyan entrepreneurs and it is our responsibility to invest in valued addition plants by getting appropriate technologies like machines that will be peeling and processing avocados,” Mr. Biwott said. He added that Kenya should be selling its own products in its local supermarkets rather than exporting raw materials that will get processed abroad and later on be sold in the country.
The Chinese stringent measures require farmers or exporters to install machines and coolers for peeling and freezing of avocados. They will be required to use the machine to freeze and peel for them to be allowed to export to China. The avocados will be required to be frozen at negative 30 degrees Celsius and chilled further to negative 18 degrees Celsius on transit up to their destination.
It is believed that china has issued these measures and regulations due to the presence of fruit flies on Kenyan avocados. The peeling and freezing requirements brings to another add of the already existing 56 steps one needs to get clearance from government agencies in order to export avocados.
The EPC CEO has also said that value added avocados will guarantee safety to the products because any kind of pests or risks will be remove with the products being of high value and highly placed bringing lots of income on board.
Kenya is number one exporter of avocados in Africa and has also been ranked as number 8 exporter of the same in the whole world making it one of the leading exporters of avocados in the continent. In 2018 only, Kenya exported avocados worth 78 billion according to statistics provided by the EPC CEO during the avocado production and marketing launch for small scale farmers. He says that this provides a big opportunity of scaling up in terms of value addition and increasing the productivity of the green gold as Kenya has good environment and land for farming.
“Our focus should now be on exporting value added avocado products and minimize on exporting fresh or dried avocados by adopting manufacturing in realization and supporting the government’s Big 4 Agenda,” He says. “Kenya can multiply even more than ten times the revenue generated from avocado exports to the African continent and neighboring markets if we concentrate on value addition. Mr. Biwott says that our worry as a country should be transitioning from exporting raw products to value-added products that will bring out a clear picture of what the government’s Big 4 Agenda means.
There are Kenyan enterprises who import from other countries and add value here in Kenya, aggregate the products who thereafter export. This shows the need of putting more efforts in the country by planting and producing more avocados which even if we produce to reach maximum, according to the EPC CEO, we will still need to import because this is an African continent that is a free trade area and there is nothing with Kenya becoming a hub for value addition and exportation of avocados.
Chinese market constitutes 1.4 billIon consumers of avocados and it has taken Kenya 7 years to struck a deal with the Chinese government in opening its market for the green gold after President Kenyatta visited the country and after Chinese inspectors came to Kenya to undertake a rigorous analysis in inspection of farms, laboratories and packaging.
Having given a clean bill of health, a trade deal was signed by the two respective presidents of Kenya and China but later on the Chinese government issued the stringent requirements in order for the Kenyan fruits to be flown to Beijing.
“It is the character of Kenya being a leader in market opening within the continent and we need to support the government and the private sector for playing a critical role in search of markets for our products and we will do this by following the procedures outlined for us to meet the required standards,” Mr. Biwott urged avocado stakeholders.
He has called upon counties to continue mobilizing and coming up with initiatives that will bring farmers and entrepreneurs to shape the future of the country in terms of value addition and exportation.
Enhancing productivity of what we grow even before talking about markets will help the sector fix the supply issues by ensuring we have enough to supply to the available and upcoming markets according to Export Promotion Council CEO.
He has urged all partners and stakeholders to team up together and get down to the ground where farmers are for them to be able to deliver well and ensure they also partner with county governments by identifying available products from various counties.
“With China having signaled Kenya on adding value to our avocados, we should now create an economic force in the country by teaming up together to achieve a sustainable model of progress to produce quality and quantity to our local and also international markets,” he adds.
In 2018 Kenya constituted 39 percent of avocado exports and 1.9 percent in the world with Mexico being in the lead of supplying avocados in the world.