"Kenyan avocados can't yet compete with Peru in Europe"

Kenya has two avocado seasons, the main season starts in the middle of March and finishes in July, the 2nd crop starts at the end of November and finishes mid February.

The new season will start in the last week of March this year. It has again been ideal for growing avocados, Anton Bothma from Eagle Fruit Alliance explains, "But we will be more careful with volumes and supply only importers in Europe that share our vision and dedication. We have selected the best growing regions in Kenya and we are ready to commence in a few days time. We will welcome new clients that have the vision to develop with us and we look forward to a well planned and fruitful season now."

Each producer tends carefully to his few trees and literally lives on the spot. In recent years these farmers have been educated on the exact requirements of the ever demanding international trade and they follow the operational protocol to the letter. There are basically only a few accredited pack houses that are all Global Gap certified, while there are also some informal packing facilities. But in general the growing and packing of avocados have modernised and compares unquestionably with the best in the world.

The sustainability of the avocado business has recently been evaluated by European experts. The report is impressive, to say the least, but Kenyan still has some problems to overcome. There are some informal traders, or exporters, called “briefcase operators”, who clearly have a short term objective. There is also an expensive shipping operation that takes a long time to reach the destination as containers have to be trans-shipped in the Red Sea. The Port of Mombasa is now reaching completion and the new facility will cater for large ships that can sail directly to major ports in Europe. This will cut cost in a big way and reduce the transit times by more than a week.

"As leading avocado suppliers we have to deliver a product as good as that from South Africa or Peru even though we do not have the luxury of large ships and shipping reliability that our competition enjoys," explains Anton. "We also have to “break down” the old school perception of some of the European fraternity who still believe Kenyan avocados do not ripen as well as those from other sources. We accepted this challenge and we are now assisted by the Kenyan Government in the form of the HCDA who samples every consignment to test the oil content and dry matter to ensure that only fully developed avocado be packed."

Eagle Fruit Alliance(Pty) Ltd is very much aware that Europe will be flooded with supplies from Peru, mainly from the end of May and even with the much improved quality standards now packed, they cannot compete with the massive volume from Peru which normally forces prices below Kenya's economically viable set point.

"Subsequently we have developed markets outside Europe in South East Asia. We have also developed special packs of 8kg and 10kg which allows for netting required by supermarkets in terms of smaller fruit. We have introduced laminated cartons that are strong and will not collapse at the bottom of pallets. All our shipments are Controlled Atmosphere treated (CA). Due to the long transit time of about 23 days to Europe, we have decided to load mainly the stronger Hass variety and supply Fuerte mainly to the Middle East," continues Anton.

A lot of care is taken on intelligence to monitor loadings from Peru and South Africa. It is only possible for Kenyan growers to use the window of opportunity when competitive supplies are lower. As a result, they will be loading less volume and only during times when the market will not be swamped by volumes from Peru arriving in Europe. Kenya has the volume to be a much bigger player in the EU arena, but will only increase loadings once the new shipping facilities in Mombasa Port starts operation.

For more information:
Anton Bothma
Eagle Fruit Alliance (Pty) Ltd
Mob: +27(0) 82 820 3707
Email: anton@eaglefruit.co.za


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