Kenyan avocados have always been the best but rampant harvesting of the premature fruits is ruining its reputation, the Avocado Society of Kenya says.
According to Alex Muthomi, the society’s Chief Executive, there are concerns that the idea of harvesting avocados that haven’t reached maturity may lead to international buyers shunning the fruits from Kenya.
Immature avocados hardly fetch the right amount of cash. Furthermore, its exports have often been rejected, a scenario that forces sellers to seek alternative markets in other countries.
Muthomi emphasized the need for thorough sensitization and equipping farmers with the right skills that will enable them to harvest avocados that are up to par with industry standards.
Speaking at Murang’a University of Technology during an avocado exhibition and conference held on March 22, Muthomi noted that the international demand for the fruit is high, which has forced farmers who want quick cash to harvest avocados early.
“In the European market where our avocados are traded, sometimes buyers opt to buy from other countries when they find out fruits are not mature,” he noted.
According to Muthomi, exporters who purchase the fruit from farmers without considering whether the avocados have reached maturity are largely to blame.
The premature fruits, in storage, do not ripen but darken and begin rotting leading to tremendous losses.
As a countermeasure, the society said that it will embark on training its 8,000 members as well as 81 traders to make sure that the avocados that reach the market are of the appropriate quality.
Also, the society looks to encourage more farmers to venture into avocado farming claiming that there is a big international market gap that needs to be filled, particularly after China expressed interest in Kenyan avocados.
Currently, Murang’a leads with 57 percent production among the avocado producing counties. The county produces mostly the Hass and Fuete varieties.
On that note, Paul Mbugua, Kakuzi Ltd Commercial Manager said that the Hass avocados should not be harvested before March while that of Pinkerton variety should be done from February of every year.
The prices of avocados as of March 26 ranges from 800 shillings per 90kg bag, the lowest in Kisii, and 4,000 shillings for a 90kg bag in Mombasa. The same quantity of the product goes for 3,000 shillings in Nairobi, and 3,800 shillings in Eldoret.