Avocado farmers eye China, India as EU glut cuts earnings
Kenyan avocado producers have set sights on China and India in search of better prices amid rising competition in the traditional 28-nation European Union (EU) market.
Avocado prices in the EU have fallen by more than half this year largely due to increased supply from Peru and South Africa, media reports said earlier this month.
Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya chief executive Okisegere Ojepat said the low prices had hit farmers hard after heavy rains delayed maturity of their crop leading it to coincide with Peru’s.
“We are now exploring new markets in the Far East where we are anticipating the Chinese and the Indian market will open,” he said on phone.
“If that happens, the issue of the (price) war in the EU will be a thing of the past.” Past attempts to access the populous Chinese market failed largely on agricultural health concerns, he said, adding that another team of inspectors has been invited to assess Kenya’s compliance with Beijing’s phytosanitary standards.
“We are currently finalising, together with our regulators, the protocols to be put in place to allow Kenyan avocados to get to the Far East without having to go through a long channel where some of our crop ends up there through other markets such as the UK,” Mr Ojepat said. “That will sort us from this mess that we are in currently.”
Head of Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) Nehemiah Chepkwony said they were planning high-level, government-to-government discussions on opening up the Chinese market for Kenyan fresh produce, including avocados.
He, however, said he could not give clear dates for the discussions as the arrangements will be handled by Foreign Affairs ministry since the Chinese export restrictions are policy issues. “Right now we may not be exporting much to the EU … but if we meet their (Chinese) requirements, we shall be in a very good position to expand and grow the avocado industry because the demand there is very large. It is the same thing with India,” said Mr Chepkwony. Kenya Horticultural Council (KHC), the industry lobby, conservatively estimates production of avocados at 115 tonnes annually, three-quarters of which end up in expanding export markets.
“Our main problem has been exporting immature fruit … (because) the quality of our avocado is really good,” said KHC chief executive Ms Jane Ngige.