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    By George Munene

    The Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) has announced that the 2023 Kenya avocado harvesting season officially opens today, March 24th.

    Kenya's avocado harvesting season, March- October, coincides with peak demand from the international market. The country exported Sh14.48 billion worth of the fruit between January to November 2021, overtaking South Africa as the continent's leader in avocado production for the lucrative overseas market. With the opening of the gigantic Chinese market in August last year-- the country exported Sh7 billion worth of avocados to China between August and October 2022-- the good times for avocado farmers are here to stay.

    However, due to the chronic drought ravaging most of the country, avocado yields are expected to decline this year.

    A memo by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) of Kenya advised farmers to harvest their avocados when mature which is determined by a minimum dry matter standard of 24 per cent. This reduces the fruit’s susceptibility to mesocarp bruising.

    Mesocarp bruising is a significant postharvest problem of avocados as it results in cell and tissue damage which reduces the fruit's keeping quality.

    Related News: Murang’a farmer reaps from Kakuzi’s smallholder avocado gold rush

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    The agency further advised avocado farmers to avoid using open vehicles in packaging and transport as it affects the overall quality.

    Farmers should also be careful when loading avocados as load pressure can exert internal injury which causes them to have a short shelf life.

    ‘The exact stage of maturity during the growth and development of avocado fruit is difficult to determine because the fruit does not exhibit obvious characteristics that could suggest the optimum state of “readiness for harvest”. It is crucial to note that avocado maturity will not improve after picking, so it is crucial that the fruit reaches the required marketing preference before harvest. Immature avocado fruits have a grassy aftertaste, are watery or rubbery in texture, and lack flavour.’

    Related News: Chinese traders plan on increasing Kenyan avocado imports

    HDC has been engaging avocado exporters and Horticultural Produce Marketing Agents (HPMAs) to boost compliance with maturity requirements.

    AFA urged all avocado value chain actors to adhere to production and postharvest handling requirements to ensure positive consumer sentiment toward Kenyan avocados. This will ensure Kenya’s avocado industry remains competitive in the global market.

    Most of Kenya's avocado farmers are grown in Murang’a, which leads with 31 percent of total production, Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, and Kisii counties. Other regions with a growing avocado farming culture fast are Nakuru, Nandi, Bomet, Uasin Gishu, Trans- Nzoia, Bungoma, and Siaya counties. Certain parts of Machakos County can grow avocados (Hass) which require altitudes of between 1000m to 2000m and optimum temperatures of 20 to 24 degrees Celsius.

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    By George Munene

    A Nairobi buyer, is sourcing for purple passion fruit farmers to fill an order of 100 kilograms weekly as well as a consistent supply of lady okra growers.

    “Ideally we would prefer to work with farmers within Central and the greater Nairobi area but we can stretch out to those from other regions of the country,” said the buyer Maurice Macharia.

    Related News: Former marketer finds success in passion fruit farming

    Related News: Grafting purple & yellow passion fruit eradicates deadly fusarium wilt

    Related News: Uasin Gishu farmer's switch from passions to tree tomato earns Sh2M

    The company buys 3 passion fruits for Sh10 and is keen to initiate an immiddiate partnership partner with farmers already growing the fruit. 

    Maurice Macharia: 0718855936

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    By George Munene

    According to the Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK), January 2023 Agriculture Sector Survey prices of most food items are expected to decline or remain unchanged in February 2023.

    Per the monthly survey that captures farmer, retailer, and wholesaler sentiment in the country, the majority of the respondents (61 per cent), expect retail prices of cereals and grains to either decline (22 per cent) or remain unchanged (39 percent). 

    The supply of food items, mainly maize, rice, and wheat are expected to increase in the coming months supported by ongoing harvests and expected duty-free imports.

    The expected moderation of maize and wheat prices is on account of ongoing harvests in Kenya and Tanzania and the expected duty-free importation of maize and rice from February 2023. 

    Related News: Kenya facing acute food insecurity, food prices remain record high

    Related News: Only 20% of farmers have access to subsidized fertiliser--CBK report

    The ongoing harvest of rice in Mwea which started in December 2022 and is expected to end in February 2023 will continue moderating the price of rice in the near term.

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    The analysis of retail prices between November 2022 and January 2023 revealed a sustained decline in the prices of essential agricultural commodities. In particular, the cost of maize, beans, rice, and some vegetables declined even as the price of cooking oil stabilized. 

    This was because of improved weather conditions that supported the vegetable season, the increased supply of maize from the ongoing harvest season, and the easing of supply chain constraints in the international markets. 

    The prices of spinach, potatoes, sugar, peas, cabbages, and milk declined due to increased production following the short rains.

    Related News: State initiates nationwide farmer registration to deliver subsidised fertiliser & seed

    The survey drew respondents from wholesale, and retail markets, and farms in major towns across the country. These included: Nairobi, Nairobi Metropolitan area, Naivasha, Gilgil, Nakuru, Narok, Bomet, Nyandarua, Nyahururu, Kisumu, Mombasa, Kisii, Eldoret, Kitale, Meru, Mwea, Machakos, Isebania and Nyeri.

    It is aimed at generating high-frequency agriculture sector data that provides additional information to support monetary policy decisions.

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