Kenya’s avocado farming, and where the profit lies

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Exporting avocados to high-value European markets can boost the income of Kenya’s smallholder farmers by 39 percent, a new report says.

The finding is by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and its partners. 

Currently, Kenya  exports just about 10 per cent of its avocado production compared to South Africa’s 60 per cent and Chile’s 55 per cent. 

Kenya is the third largest producer of avocados, with about 70 per cent of the produce coming from small-scale farmers.

The export market is dominated by five major exporters. These are Kakuzi, Vegpro, Sunripe, Kenya Horticultural Exporters Limited and East Africa Growers Limited. They source most of their exports from smallholders.

 “International agricultural markets offer a higher price and also demand higher quality than the local market. Producing for international markets can boost the income of farmers,’’ said Dr Mulubrhan Amare, a senior researcher at IFPRI and the lead author of the report.

His report, ‘The impact of the smallholder farmers’ participation in avocado export markets on the labour market, farm yields, sales prices and incomes in Kenya’’, deduces  that the avocado export market holds the key to smallholders’ success.

 While avocado prices are on the rise, this has not directly boosted the farmer, who continues to suffer at the hands of local brokers who exploit them.

Ms Monicah Nyambura, an avocado farmer in Othaya Sub-County, Nyeri County, says: “While the Hass variety offers good returns, we have little say when negotiating with the brokers at the farm gate. They mostly dictate the prices.” 

Meanwhile, insufficient capital, poor infrastructure and high labour costs are some of the factors stopping smallholders from directly selling their produce to the international markets.

The study recommends that any existing or new government programs should focus on increasing productive capacity by improving access to seedlings and building technical knowledge through training programs in avocado cultivation.

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