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Kenya overtakes South Africa to become Africa's biggest exporter of avocados

Kenya's impressive volumetric growth rate per year and access to new markets have helped the country to overtake South Africa as the number one exporter of avocados from Africa. The East African country became the largest exporter of avocados in Africa in 2017, exporting a record volume of 51,507 tons to the world. South Africa, traditionally the lead exporter of the world fruit from the Agriculture-rich continent, relinquished the position and trailed Kenya for the first time ever in history with 43,492 tons.

Kenya’s pool of the biggest importers includes the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and more recently, the Russian Federation. The UAE tops the list with some 12, 041 tons for the 2017 timeline. Saudi Arabia is the country’s fourth importer with some 4,874 tons worth of imports in 2017. The Russian Federation currently holds the 5th position in trade volumes that have culminated at 4,171 tons in 2017. The second, third, and sixth major export markets for Kenya avocados are all in Europe. The Netherlands leads the pack with 10, 556 tons of the fruit from the 2017 statistics. France is the third biggest importer: its net volume stood at 10, 423 tons in the same year. The United Kingdom and Spain close the top 7 with volumes that verged on 2,944 and 1,734 tons respectively in 2017.

As the main producers of avocado in Africa, Kenya and South Africa have had a bittersweet trading relationship. In 2010, South Africa banned the importation of avocados from Kenya, citing quality concerns. The ban lasted for close to a decade until a July 2018 revocation. The resumption of trade has come as a blessing to many smallholder farmers in Kenya. By 2014 when the ban on avocado was still in force, the East African nation’s trade volume with its southern counterpart clocked at a high of $0.7 billion (imports) and $327.7 million of reciprocal trade (exports). The return of trade will also bring on board international buyers as importers will have more confidence to buy the now-endorsed Kenyan fruits.

According to John Oroko, CEO of Selina Wamucii, one of Kenya's fastest growing avocado exporters, it was only a matter of time before Kenya became the leading avocado exporter on the continent.

Oroko said: "Kenya has had a steady year on year growth since 2012 and, despite facing a severe drought in 2017, managed to export a record over 50,000 tons. I have every reason to believe this year will be way better given that we had rains and the avocado sizes have increased significantly. Of importance to note is that Russia and Hong Kong (a key gateway to mainland China) have had over 500% market growth and these are very key markets for our avocados if the country is to maintain its lead.”

“The EU market is already a mature market for Kenya's avocados and significant growth can only be achieved with the nurturing of these new and strategic emerging markets for Kenyan avocados especially China and Russia. The future indeed looks very bright.”

To read a more detailed analysis, click here.

Tim Wahome
Tel: +254 776012439

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