Central Kenya avocado farmers enjoying export opportunity

One thousand three hundred and fifty (1350) avocado farmers from the central Kenya, of whom 45 per cent are women, are enjoying stable income from supplying a natural oil production and export company, Olivado.

Olivado buys fruit directly from farmers, processes it to oils, at its Murang’a factory, and exports it to 30 countries.

The New Zealand founded company began a pilot project in a temporary facility near Nairobi in 2007, after avocado supplies in the Pacific Island went down.

Within six months of commencing its operations in Kenya, the company had identified more than 700 small holder farms, and had them certified organic by Swiss organic certifier, IMO.

The company can now produce 900MT of organic extra virgin avocado oil per year.

Varieties

The farmers, from whom Olivado sources its raw products, have been specializing in just two varieties since the fruit was introduced to the highlands in the 1970s by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), now the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

Hass, a warty, medium sized, roundish fruit that turns purple at full maturity.

It has a tough, pebbly skin, with an impressive shelf life. Fuerte, a Mexican-Guatemalan hybrid is a shiny-green, pear-shaped fruit that weighs 250g to 450 g and has high oil content.

It is approximated that four out of five of the trees in Kenya are Fuerte, which was in high demand in the late 1970s and early 1980s when most farmers were establishing their orchards. 

But market trends now favour Hass, with horticultural companies like Olivado encouraging farmers to plant Hass or graft Hass scions onto Fuerte rootstocks.