South Africa’s avocado market is now open for Kenya after an 11-year-old closure after a fruit fly infestation according to South African authorities who wrote to Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade.
South African plant quarantine authorities banned Kenyan avocados back in 2007 following the infestation of an oriental fruit fly.
The pest had earlier been reported in Asia and was reported in Kenya in 2003 from when it spread to other fruit farms in the country.
Efforts to have the ban lifted were met with conditions such as requirements to have Kenya establish cold treatment and pest-free areas which were not possible due to the expense.
“This led to engagement with the South Africa authorities at the principal secretary level, technical and even private sector level with a target of re-opening the market,” said the director of policy at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. John Mwaniki.
Mr. Mwaniki added that the ban was lifted following South Africa agreeing to change its importation requirements to a detailed systems approach applied in the orchards/production sites and pack houses.
He further noted that a 2016 report by the media on the dangers of the pest on avocado farming to Kenya and its neighbors had greatly contributed to South Africa reopening its markets to Kenya.
The risk imposed for exportable avocados by the oriental fruit fly was negligible under set standard export regulations which, according to Mr. Mwaniki, pushed South Africa to send experts to the country on April 2018 for a pre-shipment audit.
After the audit, according to Mr. Mwaniki, South Africa wrote to the two ministries saying that the market is now open, however, with conditions to ensure avocados are inspected at the fields by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis).
Farmers will now be required carry out management practices for codling moth and fruit fly which, according to Ms. Esther Kimani, Managing Director Kephis, will be done through setting up traps for the pests in the avocado farms.
“I can confirm Kephis is subsequently working with avocado exporters to ensure that they adhere to the systems approach requirements,” said Ms. Kimani.
She also informed that the exporters who wish to access the market yet their production sites and pack houses for avocado had earlier been approved before the closure, they would now be required to apply afresh to get an import permit.
Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri has hence partnered with a number of county governments in disbursing subsidized and certified Hass avocado seedlings to boost the supply in the near future.
112,107 acres are currently under avocado farming with CS Kiunjuri reporting that there are plans to increase it to 200,210 acres by the year 2022.