Farmers from the Central region have been asked to embrace avocado farming for export to boost incomes.
Officials of Kengap, an international NGO that has been popularising avocado farming in the country, say there is an acute shortage of avocados in the international markets, thus a high demand for the commodity.
Speaking at Thika Technical Institute during an avocado exhibition, Abigail Mwende, head of sales at Kengap, said the organisation is working closely with the national government in regulating avocado exports. “This includes ensuring that only high quality fruits are exported to maintain the country’s reputation in the sector,” she said.
The exhibition was the third national avocado show following others that have been held in Uasin Gishu and Nyeri counties with an aim of creating awareness to farmers on the benefits of avocado farming. “We aim to help increase production and improve quality while at the same time focus on winning markets for smallholders,” she said.
According Kengap consultant Eric Rono, the NGO is focusing on two varieties of avocados, Hass and Fuerte. “Hass is a grafted variety, which takes two-and-a-half years to mature. It does well in soils of 6 to 6.7ph. The production per tree is around 700kg per year and the cost per grafted seedling is Sh250,” said Rono.
Kengpap plans to exploit the avocado export market by linking farmers to markets. The raw fruit is exported to UK and South America.
John Mwangi, sales and marketing officer with Olivado EPZ Ltd, located at Kabirwa Sagana in Murang’a county, said their factory deals with processing and exporting avocado oil. The factory was set up after research found that avocado supplies in New Zealand were uncertain and insufficient to keep up with growing global demand for virgin avocado oil.
With 1,350 small farmholdings now certified organic and supplying avocados, Olivado has a capacity in Kenya of 900 tonnes of organic extra virgin avocado oil per year. “We buy raw avocados from selected farmers and processes them into avocado oil for export to South America, Middle East and UK,” he said.
Mwangi called on farmers to work closely with agricultural extension and research officers for expert advice, adding that when correct crop husbandry is applied, avocado farmers will be smiling all the way to the bank.