Commodities

Kenyan avocado exports to China jump 10 times on demand

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A farmer tends to his Hass avocado trees in Nyeri on January 18, 2024. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

The quantity of Kenya’s avocado exports to China has increased nearly 10 times in 2023, just a year after exports to the populous Asian country commenced.

Data from Chinese authorities shows the country imported 4,324.1 tonnes of avocados from Kenya last year. This is nearly 10 times the 443.6 tonnes the Asian giant took in 2022.

The Avocado Exporters Association of Kenya Chief Executive Philip Mutooni said the European Union (EU) will likely remain the top buyer of the country’s avocados, but the emergence of the vast Chinese market is a major boost.

Read: Kenya bans avocado exports starting Friday 

“The EU is our biggest market and is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future,” Mr Mutooni said. “However, besides China, we are also looking into growing sales in other markets such as India and Saudi Arabia.”

Kenya commenced exporting avocados to China in August 2022, opening up the country’s vast population of more than 1.4 billion people to local fresh produce exporters.

In comparison, the 27-member EU, which remains the largest buyer of local avocados, has a population of about 448 million people.

Kenya had long sought clearance to start exporting avocados to the Chinese market but there was a requirement to only ship frozen fruits as opposed to fresh ones.

Further, the logistics involved and the lack of necessary infrastructure delayed access to the populous market since the agreement was reached between Kenya and China in 2019.

However, local avocados face stiff competition from other top exporters such as Mexico and Peru.

“The international Hass markets faced their traditional headwinds in June as Peru entered both China and Europe markets with considerable volumes of fruit,” said Kakuzi in its half-year results to June 2023.

Kenya is ranked the fifth largest avocado exporter in the world only behind Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.

The leading fruit exporter is what will set Kenya’s avocados apart from those from other countries.

“The Chinese market is developing at a reasonable pace but for Kenyan produce to truly become dominant it is imperative that only quality fruit which will ripen correctly is exported to the market,” it said.

In September last year, Kenya also made its first shipment of avocados to India, currently the world’s most populous country, after eight years of negotiations.

Read: Avocado exports to China hit Sh9bn in three months to May

Kenya is betting on increased fresh produce exports to buffer its foreign exchange earnings as well as improve the livelihoods of farmers.

In 2023, Kenya’s fruit export earnings jumped significantly to Sh32.37 billion up from Sh19.7 billion in 2022, according to data from the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD).

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