Weekly Citizen

Why avocado is now cash crop – Weekly Citizen

Kirinyaga county is supporting farmers to embrace avocado farming, which now presents an immense investment opportunity for Kenya. The county government through the department of agriculture will distribute over 100,000 certified Hass avocado seedlings this year. The CEC for agriculture, Jackline Njogu, said in May last year, 50,000 seedlings were distributed to individual farmers and farmer’s groups across the county as a campaign to have many residents embrace avocado farming. She said the county government is set to distribute another 70,000 seedlings during the ongoing rainy season.

“We have also intensified agricultural extension services to ensure that farmers plant certified seedlings and also nurture them in the right way,” Njogu said. She said the county intends to ensure farmers have healthy avocado plants, which will be in production in two to three years. “The fruit will be a source of income for the households as well as a major contributor to the county’s improved economy,” she said. Among the groups that benefitted from the free avocado seedlings programme is Muthigi women group from Gichugu constituency with each of the 137 members of the group receiving three seedlings which they have been nurturing. The group’s chair, Rose Gitari, says that they have already embraced avocado farming initiative since it presents them with an opportunity to empower themselves financially. “We look forward to maturity of our avocado trees so that we can start harvesting.

The sales will help us in meeting our needs that include educating our children. Our village will also be transformed by this fruit,” she said as she attended to her avocado trees. The women who thanked the county government for the initiative have even gone further to increase avocado seedlings on their farms. Some of them have as many as 40 avocado trees and are encouraging their peers to plant more. The group had started up as a benevolent welfare group before incorporating economic empowerment programmes. Avocados are now considered the green gold that is turning around the lives of many smallholder farmers who produce 70pc of the 115,000 metric tonnes of avocados produced in Kenya annually. Demand for Kenyan avocado across the world is high and many farmers are considering avocado farming alongside or in place of conventional cash crops.

According to Horticultural Crops directorate, avocado has a fair share among leading export crops while Kenya is the leading exporter of the crop. The Economic Survey of Kenya 2019 indicates that the value of horticulture exports increased from 33.3pc to 153.7 billion in 2018 on account of production and improved international prices. Kenya is a major player in the avocado export market whereby it is ranked third in the whole world. Demand for Kenyan avocados is extremely high in the European countries such as France, Netherlands and Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. South Africa and China also joined the growing list of mass importers of Kenyan avocados while Russia, Singapore, Libya and Egypt among others have shown interest in importing avocados from Kenya.

A Hass avocado tree can yield up to between Sh8,000 to Sh9,000 yearly worth of fruit with growers expected to reap more as prices are expected to double in the coming years. “Our government is committed to ensuring that the residents get a good share in the avocado exports,” Njogu said. In Nakuru county .the administration has launched a sustained campaign to revitalise avocado farming as it seeks to unlock untapped potential running into billions of shillings in the regional and international markets. County Agriculture chief officer Kibet Maina said the devolved unit had increased its budgetary allocation for the avocado sub sector from Sh42 million in the past financial year to Sh52 million in the current financial year.

He said the devolved unit was strategising on moving avocado farmers in Nakuru from subsistence farming and encouraging them to embrace high-value export market. “We have distributed 12,400 avocado seedlings to 600 farmers in Maela ward, Naivasha subcounty under the avocado seedling distribution program. “The county is reinforcing sensitisation of crop diversification, increasing income as well as promoting food and nutrition security. The department will continue to distribute avocado seedlings in other sub counties during this rainy season,” stated Maina Kenya exported Sh10 billion avocados in the 2017-18 financial year, according to data from Kenya
Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis). The European Union accounted for 42pc of the market while the Middle East came second at 28pc. Avocado rank fourth most important national fruit crop and has grown to represent 17pc of Kenya’s total horticultural exports.

The agriculture chief officer revealed that the devolved unit had put strategies in place to recruit 10,000 new farmers to grow the crop and increase the acreage it covers. Governor Lee Kinyanjui said his administration was committed to resuscitating avocado alongside other traditional crops like coffee and potatoes. He further affirmed that the county was working overdrive to revive the once multibillion pyrethrum industry in Nakuru. Governor Kinyanjui said that the county will establish avocado purchasing, sorting and packing bays as it seeks to tap into the international market. It is expected to give farmers a direct market locally and abroad and eliminate brokers. Last year, the county distributed at least 40,000 seedlings to farmers across the county under the revamp of farming in the county. “We want to focus on the regional and international market outlets instead of selling the crop to brokers at throwaway prices.

Brokers buy the fruit for between Sh10 and Sh15 but reap huge profits at the expense of farmers,” he said. This is part of a grand plan by the county to help farmers tap into the East African and foreign export markets through value addition. Nakuru, regarded as a key food basket in Rift Valley, is banking on direct sales of its farm produce to foreign markets and value addition to grow revenues. The county is also one of the leading producers of potatoes, milk, vegetables among other crops. “We have identified avocado as a potential income earner for our farmers due to the high demand both locally and internationally,” said Kinyanjui

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