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Avocado, Kenya’s next export crop

New hybrid varieties to suit local climatic and agro-conditions being developed by an Israeli firm locally aims at converting the avocado tree into a profitable commercial crop

Kage Njoroge @PeopleDailyKe

Cooperation between Israeli agro-companies and local farmers could transform avocado production from an ordinary basic produce to a competitive cash crop for the export market.

The crop has attracted serious investors who are currently implementing programmes geared to change the growing of the crop. To boost the genetic quality of avocado trees available to farmers, new hybrid varieties are being developed to suit local climatic and agro conditions. The new varieties being processed seek to convert avocado tree to a profitable commercial crop for both domestic and export markets.

During a seminar organised for agribusiness stakeholders by Amiran Kenya, an Israel agriculture company operating locally, it was revealed that the avocado crop has enormous potential for export and industrial markets. Gilab Bellin, the general manger if Israeli firm, Solo Plant Limited, said Kenya can be a top exporter of avocado products globally if requisite production practices are put in place.

“Local weather conditions, soils and agronomic zones are highly suitable for growing of quality avocados sought by the international lucrative market,” Bellin told the seminar participants. However, Bellin said various challenges hamper local farmers from producing competitive avocado fruits.

These include lack of quality genetic rootstocks, a clear-cut policy on commercial growing of the crop, poor agricultural practices and lack of effective farmers training and promotion strategies on the importance of the crop. To help address such challenges, Bellin said his company is crafting new avocado varieties for farmers to meet high demand in the export circles.

Solo Plant company has established a breeding nursery and laboratories where the new varieties are being grown and tested. The facility is located at Wempa, Murang’a county. Bellin said seeds from different indigenous avocados are germinated and grafted with quality scions to produce superior varieties, which will yield desired results.

The technology-driven production has already produced a hybrid variety called Hass whose farm field performance is impressive. “This genetically superior variety is developed from rootstocks of local indigenous varieties to suit growing conditions,” he said.

The Hass variety can become a commercial crop for small growers if they get the right type and practice better production techniques. “It is in demand and is being utilised as fruit and industrial crop to make consumable products,” Bellin said.

Solo Plant is working with Amiran Kenya and other partners to generate the right Hass varieties, which will be clean and healthy, with the correct rootstocks ad genetic capacities for production. These varieties will produce fruits with the required sizes, shape and food nutrition value, thus meeting requirements of the consumers.

The newly-grafted Hass seedlings are retailing at about Sh300 per tree at Solo Plant nurseries. To enable farmers to engage in profitable avocado growing agribusiness, Amiran Kenya on its part is providing the necessary farm level technologies and requisite facilities to the growers.

Amiran’s agro-marketing unit manager, Brain Gesimba said the company is providing framers with technology transfer to build their capacity in growing the crop. This involves provision of holistic solutions to hindrances hampering, farmers from establishing profitable farming projects.

Fertigation Amiran is rolling out the programme to farmers through fertigation technology, which involves providing the crop with vital nutrients, irrigation methods and fertilisers. “Fertigation is giving the plants what they need in terms of food, water and care so they could produce quality fruits,” he said. Gesimba urged farmers growing avocados to take right steps to get good results.

“The project will promote the entire avocado crop value chain from healthy seedlings to processing avocado fruits,” he said. Currently, Kenya is exporting about 15,000 tonnes of raw avocado fruits.

Some 200,000 tonnes are produced annually and consumed locally. Mexico, South Africa and Peru are among top producers of this the $3 billion (Sh3 trillion) industry crop whose demand is rising in Europe, Asian and US.

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