Kenyan avocado exporters are exuding confidence that the recently shipped Hass variety to Europe will record high sales than the previous season's as farm management practices and rigorous training to farmers having now produced a 'a bigger, fresher fruit' to address the concerns of the EU market.
Kenyan farmers produce two avocado varieties. Hass, a warty, medium sized, roundish fruit that turns purple at full maturity, has a tough, pebbly skin, with an impressive shelf life. Fuerte, a Mexican-Guatemalan hybrid is a shiny-green, pear-shaped fruit that weighs 250 to 450 g with high oil content.
Traditionally, the bulk of avocado trees have been Fuerte but market trends that favour Hass has seen grafting ventures to introduce an even higher quality.
But the EU market has been sensitive to the growing conditions of the fruit and the small size. Packers and exporters have therefore been actively involved in farm training and government officials have thrown their weight behind the initiative as competition in the global market intensifies.
The government control body Horticultural Crop Development Authority, HCDA, is now actively involved in quality matters and is involved in close inspections and monitoring fruit aspects like oil content and fruit quality before issuing a phytosanitary certificate.
The new Hass avocado season has started in Kenya and Eagle Fruit Alliance (Pty)Ltd was the first to load to Europe with the ship departing this last week of January.
"After many hours in meetings and training field staff, we can see a positive improvement in the quality of the fruit and better fruit size than in the past. There are two major differences this season and we are hoping for good sales this time round,” said Anton Bothma from Eagle Fruit Alliance one of the leading packers and exporters of the Kenyan avocado.
The exporters who work with the farmers have been keen to deliver the fruit according to the specifications of the European market. For example modern packing equipment has been introduced, upgraded packing material consisting of laminated cartons and close working conditions with shipping companies. This has particularly been important to Kenya because unlike its major competitors like Peru, Kenya only focuses on Europe and therefore is guided fully by their European clients.
"After more than 30 years in fruit exports to Europe, I find that trading with avocado is much more difficult than trading with other popular commodities like apples, grapes or citrus. Not many European importers want to deal with exotics like avocado. A few weeks ago we invited all our main clients in Europe to visit all our packers. For them it was an eye opening experience to actually see the development and experience that have gone into packing avocado in Kenya," said Anton.
The company is now working aggressively through its field researchers, with avocado farmers in the country to maintain the high avocado quality harvested this season and to keep a process going and up sales.
The Kenyan avocado has been on a tumultuous path especially in the export market with bans especially being blamed of being fruit fly infested.
It was only recently that South Africa, another major importer of Kenyan avocado, lifted a ban on import of the fruit which it had blamed for carrying fruit fly that made the fruit rot. The country was losing Sh200million a year following the ban.
Written by Dominic Wandati for African Laughter
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