Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) in agreement with Avocado society of Kenya is set to ban avocado harvesting starting mid-this month aiming at protecting immature crop from the current rush by traders seeking to capitalise on high prices of the commodity the international market.
This is feared to increase the price of the fruit in the local markets. Currently, a four-kilogramme packet has so far shot up 200 per cent to Sh600, up from Sh200 in March as buyers scramble for limited supply.
“We have agreed with the regulator that we close harvesting of the crop on November 15 to protect our international market from unscrupulous traders who would want to harvest immature crop for sale,” said Ernest Muthomi, chairperson of the Avocado Society of Kenya.
According to him, ban on harvesting of Fuerte variety will be lifted on February 15 followed by Hass on March 15.
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Kenya’s avocado market in the Middle-East was hit last year following the export of low-quality crop.
The price in Dubai dropped by almost half in March 2018 as immature crop hit the value.
The Directorate of Horticulture indicated that the price of a unit of avocado dropped from 35 dirhams (Sh945) previously to 16 dirhams (Sh432) in March.
According to the directorate, Hass and Fuerte are off-season and farmers may be attempted to harvest immature fruits in order to meet the high export target.
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The main season for Kenya avocados is March to September with Fuerte avocadoes available from February and Hass variety being available from March. However, it is worth noting that given the tropical climate and different avocado growing zones in Kenya, there are fruits throughout the year although in smaller quantities outside the main season period.
“I cannot say farmers and traders in avocadoes are affected because this is a situation I want to believe they are aware of and we cannot lower our standards by exporting substandard fruits that will ruin our reputation in the global market,” said Josephine Simiyu, Regulations and Compliance Manager at Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) which houses HCD among other bodies.
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Figures by AFA indicates that avocados contribute about seven per cent of total fruit export to the global market in Kenya hence the need to regulate the sector keenly to uphold the country’s reputation in the international market.