The American government will help Kenya expand its avocado export market under a $160 million (Sh22.6 billion) initiative.
United States Agency for International Development (USAid) Chief of Staff Robert Mwadime says the organisation is targeting to scale up avocado acreage in western Kenya to ensure there are enough volumes to sustain the export market when the produce from Latin America is off-season.
Dr Mwadime said it is difficult for Kenya’s avocado to compete with the ones from Peru and Mexico, which fetch premium prices and get to the market at the same time as these top producers, suppressing the price for the Kenyan fruit.
The central region is Kenya’s main producer of avocado but its crop gets to the market at the same time as those from Peru and Mexico.
“We are planning to increase avocado production in western Kenya counties to ensure Kenya's seasons start in January to take advantage of the off-season by major world producers,” he said.
The USAid, through the Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems (KCDMS) project seeks to supply over 100,000 avocado seedlings to farmers in western Kenya by November this year to increase agricultural production by spurring competitive, inclusive, and resilient market systems in the horticulture and dairy sectors.
The agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy, contributing approximately 33 percent of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP), however, producers continue to face constraints that limit growth and perpetuate food insecurity.
The programme partners with private sector actors to transform agricultural market systems, create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, and encourage government-level reforms that encourage investment.
Kenya’s main avocado season opens in April, meaning that there are no exports between January and March.
Dr Mwadime said the move would also give farmers alternatives to the struggling sugar sub-sector, assuring them of a steady income.
Europe and China have remained key markets for Kenya’s avocado with the latter coming in as a key destination since the country was allowed to ship the produce to that market last year.
Kenya shipments to China hit Sh9 billion shillings from March to May this year, earning the country good returns in three months.
During the period Kenya imported seven million kilos of Avocado to China as more park houses and farms turned to the new lucrative Asian market.