Avocado farmers whose crop is already in season may be locked out of the export market following the recent temporary ban placed by the government.
For Jamii Avocado Limited, a company in Kericho County that specialises in selling Hass avocado seedlings and fruits, an estimated 150 tonnes of fruits are at stake.
Jamii Avocado senior manager Kennedy Langat told the Business Daily that there is a current high demand for the avocado in the international market.
“Unfortunately the ban comes when the avocado fruits fetch a high prices in the international market. Our fruits have reached maturity for sale,” said Mr Lang’at.
The average price of a 90-kilogramme bag of avocado shot up to Sh2,560 in December 2017, the highest price since 2014 when it averaged Sh2,700.
However, the large-scale producer thinks the ban challenges farmers to think about value addition.
“We still have the option of processing the avocado fruits into oil for the export market.”
Oxfam Organic Kenya Field Officer David Gitonga welcomed the ban to ensure only mature avocadoes access the market to avoid deceiving of consumers.
“Most farmers or exporters deceive consumers by selling immature fruits to reap from international market,” said Mr Gitonga.
Selina Wamucii firm co-founder John Oroko said for Kenya to have a sustainable export market quality is a key factor.
“We support the ban because of quality concerns. You can only sustain the export market if the quality is good. Generally avocado are seasonal fruits not available throughout the year,” said Mr Oroko.
He added: “The challenge comes when they get to the export market of course they will realise the avocado from Kenya are compromised thus hurting the export market negatively.”
Mr Oroko said the ban will give room for the avocado fruits to mature properly for sustainable export market.
“There is no point of exporting big volumes of avocado if the client is not going to sell them.
"The moment they realise there is export of the immature fruits, the image of Kenyan avocado is finished,” he said.
Avocado contributes seven per cent of Kenya’s total fruit export to the global market.
Farm production stood at 230,948 tonnes in2015, rising slightly to 246,057 tonnes in 2016.
According to the Agriculture and Food Authority about 387.2 tonnes worth Sh5.4 billion was exported in 2016, compared to 461.1 tonnes worth Sh7.1 billion in 2017.
Kenya and South Africa are the major exporters of Hass, Fuerte and Pinkerton avocado varieties.
Kenya, however, enjoys a competitive advantage over other exporting countries because the Hass variety harvest season extends till later in the year.