Grafted Hass avocado seedlings. Kerich County farmers are set to get 2,000 such seedlings to grow during this rainy season to diversify their income. Photo: Zablon Oyugi
Farmers in Kericho County are set to pick up avocado production as they eye the increasing demand in export markets for more income as compared to traditional tea production in the county which the farmers have always relied on as the main source of income.
According to Horticulture Crop Directorate 2017/2018 export statistics, Kenyan avocado exports recorded a 10 per cent increase annually for the last few years having exporting 115,000 metric tonnes of avocado annually compared to nine per cent drop in tea export in the period under review.
This has become a clear indication to Kericho leaders including Kapsoit MCA Paul Chirchir, Ainamoi MP Sylvannus Maritim and Woman Representative Florence Bore who are leading the campaign of avocado production in the county that there is a good return in the fruit farming.
“Already 2,000 seedlings have been bought and set to be distributed to farmers. We will ensure that the project works by following up with the beneficiaries and give a timely report,” said Ainamoi MP Sylvannus Maritim.
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The seedlings have been certified by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) to ensure farmers plant clean materials as one of the requirements for those who want to grow the fruit for export.
“There is good market of Hass avocado abroad and with avocado production we believe the farmers will gain the economic empowerment that they have always sought for. However, they have to plant clean seedlings for their produce to be accepted in the export market,” said Maritim during the launch of the project over the weekend at Kapsoit.
Kenya is the second largest African exporter of avocado after South Africa. Kenya’s main competitors on the European market are South Africa, Israel, and Spain.
“Kenya has big markets in EU as it is only Spain which produces avocadoes for export in the whole of Europe. We are also near to winning a market in the US which will see our export demand rise in the near future.” Said Bernard Kimutai, Fair Trade Enterprises Limited agronomist and avocado export expert.
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According to Kimutai, a tree of avocado can yield up to 1000 fruits annually and given a fruit can fetch an average of Sh10, a small scale farmer can rake Sh10,000 per tree. This further means that if the 2000 seedlings set to be delivered to farmers were to successfully grow to maturity will give the farmers about Sh20m.
Small scale land owners are encouraged to be in groups in order to produce the required amount of fruits needed for export as well as make it easier for monitoring and inspection of their crops by experts to ensure the production process if free of any pest and disease contaminations.
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To ensure Kenya exports quality avocados, various regulatory institutions such as Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) and KEPHIS undertake inspection, auditing, licensing and issuance of phytosanitary certificates before exporting avocados.