Plans by Murang’a governor Mwangi wa Iria to introduce a law regulating the avocado sub-sector has sent shockwaves across counties where the crop is grown, with fears that the legislation might have serious ripple effects.
The Avocado Processing and Marketing Bill imposes requirements for registration of avocado nurseries, licence to uproot a tree, movement permit and compels farmers to join cooperatives.
While the law seeks to introduce contracts between buyers and farmers and fix minimum farm-gate prices, buyers will be required to obtain a permit or be fined Sh2 million or jailed for two years.
Apart from the growers, withing the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), there are fears this step would undermine the authority’s mandate.
Gideon Gitonga, a farmer in Meru, price controls will not only negate the principles of free market but might also lead to farmer exploitation.
“We appreciate that county governments are trying to help us but the moment they try to over-regulate the sector we are the ones to suffer,” Mr Gitonga said.
“The sector is doing relatively well and I don’t think such rules will make it better. There is a need to consult widely before such laws are put into place.”
A senior officer at AFA who did not want to be named said the law would create confusion in the sub-sector that is doing well, attracting multinational marketing agents.
The crop has become so lucrative with a fruit going for Sh12 a piece.
“The moment counties start introducing their own laws then we will be losing it. Cartels will creep in to exploit the situation to the detriment of the same farmer these laws are seeking to protect.”
Counties, the officer said, should domesticate various laws done by AFA and enforce them.”
While the fruit goes for up to Sh50 in Nairobi, the producing regions have had to sell them for a song during harvest while post-harvest losses have also been hurting earnings.