Companies

Rai family diversifies into avocado farming

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Businessman Jaswant Rai. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The billionaire Rai family has extended its empire to avocado farming under the Menengai Orchards in Nakuru County as they diversify to fresh produce.

The farm is currently growing 380 acres of the produce with a long-term plan of extending the acreage to over 600 acres next year.

Menengai, owned by businessman Jaswant Rai, is among the fresh produce firms that are eyeing the lucrative Chinese market after Kenya was allowed to export fresh avocado to the Asian nation last year.

“We are planning to expand our farm in coming years and we are also looking at incorporating the local community in planting the avocado for export,” said David Jean Louis, a manager at Menengai Orchards.

Rai’s business interests have mainly been in the paper, timber, construction and manufacturing of first-moving consumer goods such as sugar and edible oils, with their establishment cutting across the East African region.

Read: Rai billionaire brothers now battle over Mumias 

Just last year, the empire opened Naitiri Sugar Company, to bring the number of sugar mills that they own to four in Kenya.

With the planned expansion, Menengai Orchards is on the path to compete with other established firms such as Kakuzi.

Mr Louis said as an established orchard, they are sensitising small-scale farmers on the best practices in growing the avocado so that they can be part of the larger organization growing the fruit.

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

The firm has also established a packing house that will come in handy for farmers who will grow the fruit.

Normally, small-scale growers do not have the financial muscle to build a pack house where the produce is graded and stored before being exported.

“Currently we are in the final stages of engaging farmers in planting avocado for export,” he said.

Mr Louis said with the opening of more markets and high demand for the Kenyan avocado, the firm is keen to expand the area under production.

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

Kenya’s exports of avocado to China hit Sh7 billion in three months to October last year, exceeding the earnings that were recorded in the first seven months of the year, highlighting the importance of the Asian market, which started importing the commodity in August.

Read: Jaswant Rai tightens market grip, produces half of Kenya's sugar

In comparison, the country earned Sh6 billion from avocado exports to China between January and July, according to the horticulture regulator.

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