The key to Kenya’s successful avocado season

The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) and Fresh Produce Consortium Kenya (FPC Kenya) issued a press statement on the avocado market on 11 November. According to FPEAK and FPC Kenya, up to the end of October 2020 Kenya exported 68,000 tons of avocados, valued at Ksh14 billion (about US$128 million), a record-high for the Kenyan subsector. The Avocado Society of Kenya reports that demand for avocados has risen both locally and internationally, with demand for fruits and fresh vegetables rising during the pandemic, following an initial slight slump in demand due to lockdowns (Fresh Plaza, 9 November).

The statement points out that Kenya has huge potential in this value chain, which includes both small-scale and large-scale farmers. Avocado is Kenya’s leading fresh fruit export, accounting for nearly one-fifth of its total horticultural exports. Grown naturally in ideal conditions year-round, right on the equator, Kenyan avocados need little crop protection or large-scale irrigation. Shipping is mainly done via sea freight from Mombasa port to various international markets in the European Union, Russia, the Middle East and the Far East.

The main season for Kenya’s avocados is February to October: the Fuerte variety is available from February, and Hass from March. This year’s avocado season closed on 11 November until February 2021.

The key to the sector’s success is in use of the latest technologies, availability of technical training, and easier access to markets. Industry associations and other players such as COLEACP have trained and supported producers and exporters on fruit quality management, and requirements for international accreditations on food safety and traceability. Value-added activities are developing in the country, with examples of processing into avocado oil and frozen avocado.

FPEAK and FPC Kenya stress the importance of compliance with sustainability requirements, including pesticide use, carbon miles, water-use efficiency, and workers’ rights. These are also topics on which COLEACP is providing capacity building activities for Kenyan producers and exporters under its Fit For Market and NExT Kenya programmes.