Fair Trade Enterprises Limited, a social enterprise fresh produce exporter is seeking 10,000 farmers to grow hass variety of avocados to meet its demand of over 690 tonnes of avocados that it exports to European Union (EU) markets every month.
Hass is the most popular avocado variety with great demand in global markets due to its nutty flavor and rich butter. It accounts for about 80 per cent of all avocados consumed in the entire world. In Africa the variety is grown in both Kenya and South Africa.
Kenya produces an estimated 115,000 metric tonnes of avocados annually. Out of this, seventy per cent are grown by small scale farmers. The local market has been a major beneficiary of these avocados, however, of late many farmers have begun commercializing to the export market thanks to the export agencies.
“Given most farmers involved in avocado production are small-scale farmers, we, in our contract farming system urge farmers to be in groups to enable them meet the production demand,” said Bernard Kimutai, Fair Trade Enterprises Limited agronomist.
“We have big markets in EU given it is only Spain which produces avocadoes for export in the whole of Europe. We are also near to winning a market in the US which will see our export demand rise in the near future.”
After grouping themselves farmers are required to choose their leaders and then register their groups to proceed with the contract deal. The groups enable the farmers to access training on compost manure and organic standard requirements and global gap compliance trainings.
“The avocados are supposed to be grown organically as per the requirement by EU certified requirements which demands that the farmers be trained for a period of three years which is known as conversion period before certification,” said Kimutai.
Hass avocados, especially the grafted ones take 3-4 years to flourish and bear fruits. Within this period farmers shall have been trained on all aspects of production awaiting harvesting.
In addition, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has been actively involved in monitoring and educating farmers and exporters enabling the Kenyan avocado industry to fully comply with global standards and regulations.
According to Kimutai, Fair Trade Enterprises Limited conduct training to their farmers in collaborating with Organic agriculture center of kenya while certified bodies such as AfriCert Limited and Control Union audit the company’s operations.
“We employ fair trade principles in our trading endeavors as we promote sustainable development in rural areas through fair trade farming and procurement of fresh horticultural produce from small scale farmers.”
Currently, Fair Trade Enterprise Limited has its own farms in strategic localities such as Mount Kenya and Eastern regions besides working with approximately 2000 contracted small-scale farmers across the country.
Kenya produces an estimated 115,000 metric tons of avocado annually, 70 percent of which is grown by small-scale farmers.
Kenyan avocado exports have recorded a 10 per cent increase annually for the last few years. These exports to the European market have doubled from 2012 to 2016.
Avocado is a major export crop constituting about 15,000 tonnes representing 17 per cent of the total horticultural exports from Kenya. Most fruit is exported to the European Union.
Kenya is the second largest African exporter of avocado after South Africa. Kenya’s main competitors on the European market are South Africa, Israel, and Spain.
Kenya’s dried avocado export has been rising, with the country selling 46.7 tons to the international market in 2016 earning the country Sh6.5bn and Sh5.2bn in 2016 and 2015 respectively, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
Towards the end of last year Kenya banned the export of avocado to other countries following an acute shortage of the same something Kimutai says is normal to keep the fruits’ standard high and earn the country more global markets.
To ensure Kenya exports quality avocados, various regulatory institutions such as Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) and KEPHIS undertake inspection, auditing, licensing and issuance of phytosanitary certificates before exporting avocados.
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