Avocado produce from Kenya might soon land in China, thanks to an initiative being spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) managing director Esther Kimani says they have already invited Chinese experts to conduct risk analysis and field visits during avocado harvesting season.
This was part of China’s recommendation before it opens up its market to Kenya.
The visit would seek to comprehend orchard management, picking, packaging and certification system of the popular fruit.
“An invitation was subsequently sent to China and, after some interactions, the visit dates were agreed to be on 25 March and 1 April this year to coincide with the main avocado export season,” Ms Kimani told Sunday Nation.
Chinese experts will be hosted at avocado farms in Kakuzi, Embu, Murang’a, Uasin Gichu, and Trans Nzoia before they are taken to the airport to see how inspection of the fruit and other crops is conducted.
Kephis, noted Ms Kimani, has received many requests for export of avocado to China since 2011. This led to an initial application for market access in April 2011 to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (Chinese National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO).
Initially, no feedback was forthcoming. Further requests were made in 2017 and some technical information provided to aid in Pest Risk Analysis (PRA).
The Chinese NPPO completed the PRA and gave their initial feedback to Kephis in December 2017.
In the feedback, she went on, it was indicated that, out of the 104 harmful organisms affecting avocado in Kenya, 11 species which included Cryptophlebia leucotreta (false codling moth), five fruit flies species (Bactrocera cucurbitae, B. invadens, Ceratitis capitata, C. cosyra, C. rosa (fruitflies), four other insects (Ceraplastes rusci, Vinsonia stellifera, Lopholeucaspis cockerelli, Selenaspidus articulates (Scales) and Pseudocercospora purpurea (black spots/spot blotch) were of concern to China.
Ms Kimani added: “The Chinese NPPO wanted Kenya to indicate to them which risk mitigation measures were in place to ensure the intended avocado exports were free of these pests. Kephis provided the mitigation measures — which were based on a system approach — in December 2017.”
Subsequently, the Chinese NPPO evaluated the Kenyan risk mitigation proposal and concluded that the country had put forward a comprehensive prevention and control mechanism for the pests of interest at orchard level.
They also observed that post-harvest measures such as packaging, pre-export inspection and quarantine methods would be used to prevent and control the pests cited.
The feedback report also indicated that Thaumatotibia leucotreta (false codling moth) is widespread in Africa and the larvae is hidden inside the avocado, hence difficult to observe with the naked eye.
This pest is therefore difficult to remove effectively through packaging and pre-export inspections.
As a result, China proposed that Kenya considers the establishment of “a non-epidemic area or a non-pestilence production unit to prevent and control the pest”.
As for fruit flies, the report said only the Hass avocado variety had been verified to be a non-host. Consequently, China would only allow importation of the Hass variety.
The managing director said Kephis has been working with avocado exporters to ensure that the systems approach to the management of pests of interest to China is in place, prior to the proposed Chinese audit.
“If this market opens up, which is our target, it will be massive because of China’s population. Our farmers will be compelled to grow more, which will translate to more earnings,” said Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri.
In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta met Chinese President Xi Jinping in China where they held bilateral talks.
It is during these talks that the President pushed for this major market, including that for Stevia, a crop used for the making of calorie free sweetener.
“We cannot even satisfy China’s demand for Stevia. We hope that they will do the same for our avocados,” noted the CS.