Avocado farmers in the North Rift earned Sh100 million last year, as earnings from the fruit surged on more exports.
Ernest Muthomi, the Avocado Society of Kenya chief executive, said the region is emerging as one of the leading zones of avocado production.
He said that between February and March, when there were shortages of the crop in the Central region, farmers in North Rift filled the deficit.
“We urge farmers to farm the crop because the counties under North Rift Economic Bloc have a good climate and the crop matures late. Due to late harvests, farmers enjoy good prices since there is a scarcity on the market,” said Mr Muthomi.
Annually, Kenya's production stands at 84,000 metric tonnes valued at Sh15 billion and the society is working to hit 150,000 metric tonnes next year. Currently, a kilo of avocado fruit fetches Sh70 to Sh100 on the global markets, as Kenya competes with crops from Peru and Mexico.
There is good uptake of the crop, with an estimated 10,000 hectares under cultivation and 2,000 hectares of matured crop currently in Uasin Gishu County, said Mr Muthomi. He lauded the State for supporting farmers to get new markets such as China, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Muthomi said his society is partnering with State agencies to sensitise farmers to produce quality crops for local and international markets.
“Sometimes, farmers get orders from international markets but instead of being patient, they harvest immature fruit due to huge demand. However, we are working with State agencies to sensitise farmers on the dangers of immature fruit and the need to protect these markets,” said the official.
Uasin Gishu County acting chief officer in charge of agriculture Reuben Seroney said the devolved unit was keen to increase acreage under the crop to tap into the huge demand globally.
“If you compare production and returns per acre, avocados fetch higher returns compared to cereals. With cereals, a farmer gets Sh300,000 per acre while an avocado farmer gets over a million from an acre,” said the county official.
Mr Seroney noted that since 2013, the devolved unit has distributed more than 700,000 avocado, macadamia and coffee seedlings as part of a crop diversification drive.
“Our farmers still depend on rain-fed agriculture, which has been affected by climate change. We are looking to working with partners to help farmers move to irrigated agriculture," he added.
“We have also instructed all extension officers to move to all wards and assist in imparting knowledge to our farmers.”