Horticulture earnings fall Sh20 billion in first quarter


A worker at a flower firm in Naivasha. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Horticulture earnings dropped by Sh20 billion in the first quarter of this year on the back of low-quality avocados and a sharp decline in returns from flowers.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data indicates the export value of the produce declined to Sh26 billion in the period under review from Sh46 billion in the corresponding time a year earlier.

Head of Horticulture Directorate Benjamin Tito said a good number of avocados that were exported were not mature enough, leading to low value and huge rejection of the produce in the world market, which would have lifted earnings.

“In the first quarter of the year there are normally no Kenyan avocados that are ready enough for export and we have traders who are tempted to push immature crop to the market, leading to low earnings and huge rejection,” said Mr Tito.

However, Mr Tito said, export earnings for horticulture will pick from April going forward after the ban on harvesting of avocado was lifted in March.

Earnings from flowers dropped by Sh10.3 billion to Sh21.8 billion in the quarter under review while fruits raked in Sh2 billion from Sh5.6 billion previously. Returns from vegetables fell by Sh6.1 billion to Sh2.2 billion.

Flowers normally make the largest share of the total horticulture export earnings as they are high-value crops.

The horticulture sector had been enjoying good earnings during the Covid-19 period. For instance, in 2019, income from the export of fresh produce declined to Sh144.6 billion but picked up during the first year of the coronavirus outbreak to Sh150.2 billion.

Earnings from horticulture exports hit a historic high last year at Sh158 billion to remain the leading foreign exchange earner in the last two years by staying ahead of tea and tourism. The good results were boosted by the high demand for Kenyan produce in the world market last year, according to the Directorate of Horticulture.

The European Union still takes the largest portion of Kenyan horticultural exports, buying 45 percent of the commodities mainly comprising cut flowers, French beans, snow peas, and Asian vegetables.

The leading export destinations for all the horticultural produce are the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Agriculture and Food Authority -the crops regulator is working at diversifying the market as it seeks to cut reliance on the European market which it says could have a negative impact on Kenya’s produce in the event that the market becomes volatile.

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