Kenya has started export of frozen avocado to China, yielding to pressure on conditions that Beijing had issued before they allow in imports of the fruit from the country.
The first consignment, according to the Directorate of Horticulture, arrived in China last month, after the deal was reached nearly one and a half years ago.
Kenya has been fighting to have the rules relaxed as most exporters do not have necessary infrastructure for freezing the fruits, delaying what has been a seven-year effort to land Kenyan avocado in the China market.
“The first consignment arrived in China late last month,” said Benjamin Tito, head of the directorate, without giving the export volume or value.
Under the deal that was agreed in April 2019 between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Kenya would only be allowed to export frozen avocado as a way of taming pests such as fruit fly, which have been common on Kenyan fruits.
The government, through the Ministry of Trade, had started negotiations to have the directive eased and allow local firms to export fresh avocado as they work towards laying necessary infrastructure to meet the requirements.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), which is overseeing the export of avocados, says the conditions set by China might bar small scale holders from accessing the market.
Kephis warned that the conditions are so strict that Kenya’s avocado could be banned from the Chinese market if Kenya fails to comply with the set phytosanitary requirements.
According to Kephis, farmers will be required to put systems in place that will support the peeling and freezing of the produce to the required temperatures before exporting.
China wants Kenyan farmers and traders to freeze the fruits to -30 degrees Celsius after peeling off the skin and chill further to negative -18 degrees while on transit to the destination, meaning that exporters have to invest heavily in cold rooms to meet the requirement.