Avocado farmers and exporters are poised to make good returns as the country is already reporting an increase of demand of up to 80 per cent in comparison to last season, from the Middle East and Europe ahead of the season which is set to begin in March to August this year.
Kenya is the largest exporter of avocados in Africa as of 2017, according to statistics from the multilateral agency International Trade Center beating South Africa. It produces an average of 191,000 tonnes of avocados per year and exports approximately 51,507 tonnes of the fruit while South Africa exports 43,492 tonnes, annually.
The country’s biggest importers include the United Arab Emirates, which shipped approximately 12,041 tonnes in 2017 and Saudi Arabia is fourth with 4, 874 tonnes.
Currently, exporters are experiencing demand from United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, increasing by as much as 50 to 80 per cent increase compared to last season and customers are demanding container-full avocadoes, monthly.
“On average, I export eight tonnes of avocados a month to the Middle East but at the moment, I am getting enquires from three to four clients weekly who are requesting a container-full,” said Frank Gathogo, the Managing Director of FarmGrown Kenya Limited, a fresh produce export company.
A four-foot container can fit 2000 cartons of avocados and one carton is approximately four kilograms, therefore, he is receiving avocado demand of eight tonnes from one client, the same amount that he exports from all his clients in a month.
As he is unable to meet this demand at the moment, he is forced to negotiate with customers rather than let them go to another exporter so that they can agree on the amount of avocados he can deliver.
“To sustain a market, one has been consistent and that is what I am doing with customers. I assure them that this the amount that I can deliver and that I will not miss so that I can also be able to build on the demand as time goes on,” said Gathogo.
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The second largest consumer of Kenyan avocadoes is the Netherlands with 10,566 tonnes annually, the third is France at 10,423 tonnes, according to the 2017 International Trade Centre statistics. Europe is the largest market for the country’s horticulture and as such the top 10 importers are from the region including the United Kingdom (at sixth with 2,944 tonnes) and Spain (at seventh with 1,734 tonnes).
Demand has thus increased in the market as the season is set to begin in the next month.
“We are currently experiencing a 10 per cent increase in demand a week compared to the previous season; usually we export two containers a week, which is about 46 tonnes. We export to the Netherlands as well as Spain and we have had to increase the production of our farmers in order to ensure that we meet the demand,” said Kimutai.
Bernard Kimutai, an agronomist at FairTrade Enterprise Limited, a fresh produce exporting company, expects that demand to rise as it approaches March. He attributes the increase in demand to the anticipated higher quality of the avocados as they received due to the period of short rains, October to December, that were above normal experienced last year. Heavy rainfall of more than 50mm was reported in 2018 in regions; Central, Rift Valley and Western, where avocados are mainly produced for export.
The rising demand could also be due to the reopened avocado market in South Africa, last year. Kenya lost the market in 2007 after South Africa claimed that most of the key fruit production areas in the country were infested with fruit fly. The ban led to the sector losing approximately Sh2.3bn annually, according to Andrew Edewa, vice chairperson of the Horticulture National Technical Working Group.