Kirinyaga farmers have been urged to embrace avocado production in the spirit of diversification and the need to plan for alternative agricultural and other sectorial interventions to boost the region economically. Smallholder farmers in the region depend on coffee, tea, rice, horticulture, dairy farming, maize and beans farming but farmers have been unable to reap maximum returns from these crops.
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The area is one of the wettest counties in Kenya with annual temperatures ranging between 12 degree Celsius and 26 degrees Celsius on average and annual precipitation of about 1250 mm. It enjoys two rainy seasons, the long rains (March-May) and the short rains (October-December). The region thus is well endowed with a good climate and adequate water sources to ensure maximum avocado production.
Kenya plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in collaboration with the County government of Kirinyaga recently held a farmer’s field day to teach and educate farmers on the good agricultural practices of avocado production. The training focused on crop production, compliance to market requirements and access, nursery certification, pest management and the varieties required for international market access.
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Over 300 farmers attended the event where over 1000 seedlings were distributed to enable them begin the process of avocado production. The event was led by area Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri and KEPHIS Managing Director Esther Kimani who urged farmers to work with the firm in the production of the crop.
Kirinyaga Deputy Governor H. E. Peter Ndambiri of Kirinyaga County presents an avocado seedling to a representative of a farmer group during the official launch of avocado farming in Kirinyaga County/PHOTO/KEPHIS
“Hass avocado is on the demand at the moment in the international market, planting this variety will enhance your income” said Kimani. Most of the Kenyan avocado farmers are found in Muranga, Nyeri, Kiambu, Kisii and Meru. Kenya has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of countries interested in Kenya avocados, these counties are, Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Iran, Libya, and Egypt among others.
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Avocadoes are a nutrient- dense fruit loaded with fiber, healthy omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, E and potassium. They contain 4g of protein making them the fruit with the highest protein content. Farmers can tell an avocado is ripe when they feel heavy for their size and are dark in color. They mature on the tree but ripen only once they are taken off the tree.
According to Soko+, a digital commodity trading and information system, linking small scale farmers to end retailers/bulk purchasers of produce the current price of avocado vary from town to town with Kisumu city retailing lowest at Sh. 1400 and Malindi highest at Sh. 6,000.