by Ejidiah Wangui
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- When China gave
Kenyan avocados a nod in April, both small and large scale
growers celebrated the development because Europe has
traditionally been the country’s main avocado market.
With Kenya facing stiff competition from South Africa in terms
of avocado exports to Europe, the Chinese market could not have
come at a better time, local growers say.
Wellington Mutisya, who grows the Hass avocado variety in his
two acre farm in the eastern county of Makueni, used to grapple
with exploitative middlemen who denied him a chance to earn
money from the highly nutritious fruit.
Mutisya said the highest amount he used to earn from one
piece of Hass avocado was 10 Kenyan shillings (0.10 U.S dollars)
despite it being touted as the best variety due to its longer
shelf life and high fat content.
"I am just hoping both governments are looking into ways
through which farmers like me who have never had a chance to
reap what we deserve from our farms benefit from this deal,"
Mutisya told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"I know for sure my avocados are consumed in Europe where I
hear a single piece goes for 3 dollars yet the same is bought
from me at 0.10 dollars.
"Nevertheless, I am optimistic about the Chinese market," he
Mutisya’s woes are not isolated; the export industry is run
by exploitative middlemen who go around farms collecting the
fruits at poor prices and later sell them at inflated prices to
established export companies.
But with the country opening up more export markets for
avocados, Mutisya intends to do things differently.
"I know the export market is for the big fish but I plan to
give it a shot.
"I have approached a few companies which have established
structures on how they deal with farmers," said Mutisya.
"In the meantime I will work with them but my goal is to
establish my own.
"My son is also undergoing training on the export value chain
as we gear ourselves towards tapping into this new market," he
Mutisya intends to increase the number of avocado trees in
his farm to 1,000 in the next one year.
Wilberforce Ngige, who has been exporting fresh produce to
Europe for over a decade, expressed concern that small growers
like Mutisya might never reap the benefits that come with the
opening of such an expansive market if the government does not
provide the necessary support.
"Most farmers don’t know the work that goes into collecting
such fruits for the export market.
"Apart from selection, you need to have certification from
various entities and maintaining these standards is not as easy,
some of us who have been in this business have made big losses
due to mistakes we could have avoided if we knew better.
"In 2016, I lost approximately 5,000 dollars after my produce
was rejected in the United Kingdom," said Ngige.
Chris Mutai, a small-scale grower in Kenya’s South Rift
region, said since the announcement in April, he teamed up with
colleagues and leased a 20-acre piece of land where they planted
avocado trees after undertaking training on best practices in
They are also in the process of registering an export company
in preparation for the Chinese market.
Already, they have obtained certified seedlings from the
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), which has been
in the forefront educating farmers on which varieties do well in
the export market and how to grow them.
Ernest Muthomi, chief executive officer at Avocado Society of
Kenya, said the greatest challenge avocados farmers face is
ignorance on which varieties do best in which markets and how to
"Most farmers follow the same script, they do what they see
their neighbors do and the reality hits when the fruits mature
and are ready for the market.
"They lack proper knowledge on varieties, quality of
seedlings and crop husbandry.
"The Chinese market is huge but it might never be of benefit
to some farmers if proper training is not done," said Muthomi.
Kenya propagates about 50 avocado varieties which include the
local varieties like the jumbo and varieties such as Hass and