Horticulture earnings dropped by Sh6.3 billion in the first half of the year, attributed to lower quality produce that attracted reduced prices in the international market.
The Directorate of Horticulture data shows Kenya earned Sh77 billion between January and June, down from Sh83.3 billion last year.
This is the steepest decline in earnings for the horticulture industry in the last five years, raising concerns over quality standards, especially in the avocado sector where some farmers have been harvesting immature fruit.
“Value dropped by Sh6.3 billion attributed to low prices offered in the international market for low quality produce. Interceptions also contributed to low value traded over the half-year period,” said Benjamin Tito, head of the directorate.
He said avocado accounted for the bulk of the produce that was intercepted as traders exported immature fruits, which impacted negatively on the earnings.
An increase in volumes by 30 million kilogrammes in the review period compared with the previous season did not help much in improving the income due to the lower prices.
The value of flowers dropped from Sh58 billion to Sh50 billion with fruits declining from Sh12.5 billion in the previous period to Sh12 billion. The value of vegetables went up to 15 billion from Sh12 billion.
The European Union still accounts for the largest portion of Kenyan horticultural exports, taking in 45 percent of the exports majorly comprising cut flowers, French beans, snow peas and Asian vegetables.
The leading export destinations are Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Middle East and the Far East.
Agriculture and Food Authority director-general Kello Harsama said there is a need for Kenya to diversify its market. He pointed out that the efforts to establish new destinations in non-traditional markets such as Russia, Asia and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa region have already begun.