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Hass avocado earn farmers premium in international markets

hass avocado variety

Hass avo­cado farm­ers in Kenya can earn over two times as com­pared to their peers grow­ing other vari­et­ies such as feurte, keitt, and pinker­ton among oth­ers due to the vari­ety’s high de­mand in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

Data from Kenya Plant Health In­spect­or­ate Ser­vice (Kephis) in­dic­ates that, in 2018-2019 fin­an­cial year, the coun­try ex­por­ted around 80,000 tons of avo­ca­dos, val­ued at ap­prox­im­ately Sh10bn which is double the amount ex­por­ted in 2016. Hass vari­ety rep­res­en­ted 70 per cent, Fuerte 25 per cent, and the local Kenyan Kienyeji, which is also a known as green-skin vari­ety, five per cent.

To this end, the na­tional gov­ern­ment and some county gov­ern­ments have in the re­cent past en­cour­aged farm­ers to dive in this luc­rat­ive busi­ness with a keen in­terest on Hass avo­ca­dos. Farm­ers in the past had been pro­du­cing the Kienyeji and the fuerte avo­ca­dos which don’t fetch good prices in the mar­ket.

Hass is in high demand compared to other varieties because of their nutritional value, for instant, two or three slices of  Hass avocado contain 4.6 grams of fat and the same portion of a regular avocado contains an estimate of three grams of fat.

Further, the Hass avocado has a higher shelf life due to its rough skin compared to other varieties

For these reasons, Hass avocado fetches good prices in the market with farmers selling at Sh10 per fruit plus annual bonus from Kakuzi compared to three shilling for fuerte.

RELATED CONTENT: Government launches Hass Avocado farming in Nyamira

Private players in the sector are also not left behind in supporting farmers to grow Hass avocadoes. Fair Trade Enterprises Limited, a social enterprise fresh produce exporter has been contracting farmers to grow the variety.

According to Bernard Kimutai, an agronomist at the firm, Hass avocadoes, especially the grafted ones take 3-4 years to flourish and can bear 1,000 fruits per tree per year; the latter takes about six years to mature.

“Other than the numerous benefits, the variety takes less space to grow in allowing farmers with small pieces of land to gainfully participate in this business. Farmers can also diversify their agricultural activities as it can grow together with other plants without taking much space thus ensuring cash flow throughout the year for the farmers.”

RELATED CONTENT: Government bans avocado exports on shortages

Government support

Another reason why farmers should plant Hass avocado is the overwhelming support from the national government as it has negotiated with companies like Kakuzi to buy directly from farmers thereby eliminating the middlemen who have been a thorn on the farmers’ skin.

 Further, the national government through KEPHIS has been actively involved in monitoring and educating farmers and exporters on global market standards and regulations compliance.

Having signed a trade deal with the Chinese government during President Uhuru Kenyatta visit to china where Kenya will be exporting frozen Hass avocado to China. If implemented, 1.5 billion Chinese consumers will take in more than 40 per cent of Kenya avocado produce.

County governments such as Murang’a and Nyeri offer free grafted Hass avocados seedlings to farmers and give extension services.

Murang’a  Governor Mwangi  Wa Iria  in 2019 said his government will provide farmers with 1m hass avocado seedlings  annually with an aim of maximizing on production  by 2025 as reports indicates  that the County earns Sh2.5billion from hass fruits annually. Further, the county has grouped 200,000 farmers into a giant County Hass avocado producer group in a bid to increase their bargaining power in the market.

RELATED CONTENT: Fresh Produce exporter contracting farmers to supply Hass and Fuerte avocado varieties

With players like the Avocado Society of Kenya, a member of World Avocado Congress, farmers who had no previous connection in the market can now connect with other players in this sectors such as exporters, others growers and  value –chain  players which can facilitate knowledge transfer among stakeholders.

The society also facilitates workshops for farmers and exporters and offers subsidized hass tree seedlings to its registered farmers

With the support from both levels of governments and other organizations coupled with readily available markets, many farmers have ventured in this venture evening attracting counties that didn’t practice this kind of farming before such as Uasin Gishu County which is educating farmers on the need to diversify agriculture by growing high value crops with avocado, coffee and macadamia.

Avocado farming is mainly done in Nyeri, Murang’a, Meru,Kiambu ,Kisii,Naivasha Nakuru and Eldoret.

The countries that import Kenya avocados are mainly in Europe, namely France, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Russia. There is also a substantial market for Kenya avocado exports in the Middle East especially in UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt. Other upcoming markets include Singapore and Hong Kong.

RELATED CONTENT: Dubai fresh produce importer looking for avocado, orange and dragon fruits suppliers

Kenya produces 115,000 metric tons of avocados annually and 70% produced by the small scale farmers with three quarter of it being exported.

This drastic change has been mainly attributed to technological advances called ‘refeer’ by Maersk lines which has made it possible to transport the Kenyan avocados  beyond the middle east to the European market.

According to a 2019 half year survey shared at the World Avocado Congress in Columbia September 2019, Kenya has overtaken South Africa in the production of the fruit. Kenya grows a variety of avocados namely the Hass, Fuerte , indigenous varieties (Kienyeji), and the Piketon although in small quantities.

The survey also ranked Kenya as seventh in the list of leading exporters of avocado in 2018 having got $ 118 million (Sh11.8 billion) in export earnings. The list ranked Mexico first with   $2.4 billion, followed by Netherlands ($ 733.8 billion), Peru ($ 722.8m) in third, Spain ($ 346 m), Chile ($ 323.2 m), the USA ($ 179 m).

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