Commodities

Kephis in talks with US, South Korea to absorb avocados glut

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

Kenya's agricultural produce quality assurance agency has opened talks with five countries, including the US and South Korea, over markets for Kenyan avocados to absorb an expected glut in coming months.

The move by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) aims to ensure the fruits planted under the rapid expansion plan five years ago, get access to international markets and save farmers from possible losses.

Kephis managing director Theophilus Mutui said the market is expecting a glut as more fruits are projected to hit the market following the expansion of land under avocado in the last five years as non-traditional counties such as Trans Nzoia, Bungoma and Uasin Gishu embraced the crop.

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Prof Mutui said they are in negotiations with the US, South Korea, Jordan, India and Mauritius to add on the existing European and Middle-East markets that are currently major destinations for Kenya’s produce.

“We are negotiating for fresh market with these countries to expand our reach ahead of the expected increase in production,” he said.

Prof Mutui said Kenya has witnessed rapid expansion in the growing of avocado over the last five years following the marketing of the crop as an alternative source of income, bringing more counties that have not been planting this fruit on board.

The area under avocado cover has grown to more than 20,000 hectares up from 7,000 hectares in 2013 as more awareness of the crop is created.

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“If we do not scout for markets now, there would be more avocados than we can handle because of the huge production that is coming soon,” he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of Kephis at the 25th anniversary Prof Mutui said they are at the pest assessment stage where these new destination markets are examining the risks of pests on Kenya’s crop. Normally, international markets are keen on pests whose presence poses a risk to Kenya’s exports.

Prof Mutui said Kephis has in the past 25 years progressed significant in the detection and pest management with its state-of-the-art laboratory.

Florence Mulati, senior deputy director in the crops department at Agriculture ministry said: “Adhering to the safety standards in the export of our produce is something that we have prioritised as a government and we are happy that Kephis is playing an important role to ensure compliance on market demand.”

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