Avocado farmers in Kenya are reaping big with the recent rise in demand for avocados both locally and internationally. More and more farmers are fast changing tune to avocado farming as they seek to grab a piece of pie from the lucrative industry. Avocado farming is the next game changer export crop of the future due to its huge demand globally especially the Hass variety due to its high nutritional value.
Kenya’s avocado market share in the recent past has gained popularity internationally especially in the European and Asian market due to its superior quality and sweetness. This has seen the country’s avocado market share drastically rise from just locally some years back to ranking second largest exporter in Africa after South Africa and sixth in the world.
The favorable equatorial climate enables farmers to attain two crop harvests a year, positioning Kenya with an advantage to overhaul South Africa to become the leading exporter of avocado in Africa and a top competitor worldwide. This factor has seen many countries express interest in Kenyan avocados and its farming, such as Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Iran, Libya, and Egypt among others.
Kenya produces an estimated 115,000 metric tons of avocados annually, with 70% of the produce being grown by small-scale farmers. Today three-quarters of the avocados are exported to other countries. The main challenge facing Kenyan avocado farming is the residue levels and lack of fruit uniformity, something that can be avoided. This was witnessed particularly this year when Kenya’s avocados were banned for export. However, Habex Agro together with Kenya Plant health inspectorate Service (KEPHIS )and the Government of Kenya is actively involved in educating the farmers and providing them with extension services to ensure they comply with global standards and regulations, enabling them to address the challenges and compete effectively globally.
The country has a great potential of becoming a world leader in the production of avocados due to its arable lands. Farmers in the Rift Valley and Western parts of Kenya are following suit and are abandoning conventional wheat and maize farming due to the increasing challenges such as armyworm that has been raking havoc in this region since last year, little profits and tedious works. They are now embracing the new and lucrative avocado farming and are taking advantage of the new program by Habex Agro as they seek new alternatives to reaping huge with avocado farming.
Habex Agro, an agricultural company based in Eldoret, Kenya with the speciality in avocado and macadamia farming has rolled out a program to ensure farmer in six counties in Rift Valley namely Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Kericho, Tranzoia, and Baringo take advantage of the lucrative avocado industry by contracting them to plant avocados. The company is issuing farmers with avocado seedlings on credit together with advice and extension services till the crops are ready for harvest and production. The company, however, needs farmers to meet certain requirements to qualify for the program:
- Have a reliable source of water
- Have deep-well drained soils
- Do soil testing
- Register with a thousand shilling
- Have a minimum of half an acre
The company provides training for the farmers on proper agronomic practices to ensure production of quality fruits that meet international market requirements. The company also has agronomists in every county who work closely with the farmers.
The farmers sign a contract with the company to ensure both parties adhere to agreements in the contract. Farmers benefit from a ready avocado market offered by the company hence fetch high prices as middlemen are completely locked out of this system. The company has its four main objectives;
- To raise the living standards of the people.
- To mitigate climate change by ensuring 1,000,000 seedlings are planted annually. This will create forest cover.
- Creates employment.
- Poverty Reduction.
The company is currently setting up an avocado processing factory in Eldoret, Kenya that will ensure farmers get a ready market for their produce at lucrative and competitive prices. Farmers in these counties should, therefore, take advantage of this life-changing opportunity presented to them.