Horticulture faces low earnings as drought hits 40pc of avocado crop


Farmers sort through some avocados loaded onto a pickup. FILE  PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

The horticulture sector is staring at low earnings this year from avocado exports as 40 percent of the fruits have been affected by the ongoing drought even as the export market opens next week.

Exporters will be forced to pack at least 24 fruits in order to fill one carton because of the smaller size, as opposed to 16, which is normally ideal when the produce is of the right size.

The Horticulture Directorate says most of the avocados in western Kenya have matured and are ready for export, which is set to start on March 24 having been pushed from the original date of March 15.

“We may not get sizes 12 to 16 because of the drought that’s led to smaller-sized fruits,” said the head of the directorate Benjamin Tito.

Mr Tito said that even though the fruits are smaller in size, they have fully matured and are ready for export to overseas markets.

He added that the ongoing drought, which has been witnessed since October last year, will have a significant impact on earnings this year.

Revenue from horticultural sales abroad amounted to Sh120.26 billion last year from Sh133.23 billion in the prior year, provisional export statistics from the CBK indicate.

Avocado is one of the key fruits when it comes to export earnings under horticulture and a drop in earnings from the produce will impact overall returns in the sector.

The avocado market was closed last November to curb harvesting of the immature crop as the season came to an end.

However, the regulator opened a two-week window in January for the export of off-season mature avocado.

The move was to allow farmers and orchards that had mature avocado to export the fruits within the issued time frame after the survey conducted in the first week of January showed that there were at least 10-35 percent of mature avocado in the east of rift and 10-30 percent in the west of rift, that were due for harvesting.

The chief executive officer of the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya Ojepat Okisegere said the sector had projected a 30 percent increment in production this year as more acreage was put under the cover of avocado.

“We are not going to achieve that (30 percent), this has been the worst drought and if anything, we shall be losing between 30 and 40 percent this year,” said Mr Okisegere.

He urged exporters to ensure that they handle the produce well to avoid post-harvest losses and ensure only quality fruits are exported in order to safeguard the Kenyan market.

Kenya’s earnings from horticultural exports reduced by 9.7 percent in 2022 on the back of elevated inflation in main markets amid weaker currencies, according to the Central Bank of Kenya.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.