Exports set to increase

Kenyans improving organic avocado quality

Avocados from Kenya are seen by some in the trade as a lower quality product compared to Southern Hemisphere supplies from Peru and South Africa according to Anthon Bothma from Eagle Fruit Alliance. "For the past few years the Kenyan producer watched his product being discounted against competitive supplies. Many producers in Kenya farm on small holdings and for many years lacked the knowledge to get a product that will mature perfectly and not loose moisture while being shipped in CA containers, resulting in a lower net weight on arrival in Europe."

Bothma explains that there are no financial subsidies for the Kenyan avocado grower and most of the growers have never been to Europe and have very little knowledge of real market requirements.

Eagle Fruit Alliance has now invested in equipment to test dry matter and oil content percentages right on the farms. "Growers now understand that when the maturity is good for harvesting, they can go ahead, unlike before when these were matters they knew little about," explains Bothma. "Technically speaking avocados from Kenya are grown without chemical crop protection and chemical fertilizers, making it the ideal organic product. This past season also saw a good number of containers that qualified as organically produced and were certified as organic and exported as such with very good results."

With producers now realising the importance of maturity indexes and the trade reporting that Kenyan avocados are now ripening perfectly, there is a new and positive approach taking place says Bothma. HCDA, the Kenyan Government body in control of agricultural matters, is now also putting programmes in place which allows the grower to connect directly with the marketplace and therefore cutting out the many middlemen.

ITC (International Trade Centre) is working closely with HCDA to ensure that no immature fruit is harvested and that the image of the Kenyan product is restored.

"All producers strictly adhere now to the measures laid down by the authorities and for us at Eagle Fruit it is a feeling of pride to see the excitement on farms. These better avocados allowed us to also develop markets in South East Asia while some consignments actually were exported as far as mainland China. All our growers are now registered with ITC and hard at work to qualify for organic certification. The few that made it already as a certified organically grown avocado producers will unquestionably lead the way for others to follow," states Bothma.

The primary restriction is cash flow. Most avocado packers have enough money to finance one or two containers and then have to wait for payment before going ahead to pack the next container.

"Fortunately our trading partners in Europe know this and pay on time which is a great help. Many importers know very well that caring for the supplier secures a better product and consistence in supplies. We now need more importers that want to work with our avocado and allow further development of the good work that is being done already," says Bothma.

With Kenya being on the Equator, we are in a position to have two crops. The main crop starts in March to September, while the 2nd crop starts at the beginning of December until middle February. Half of the crop has now been programmed with importers and Eagle Fruit Alliance will be travelling to Europe at the end of November to secure more clients prior to the start of the new season 2nd crop.

For more information:
Anton Bothma
Eagle Fruit Alliance (pty) Ltd
South Africa
Tel: +27 (0) 82 820 3707
Email: anton@eaglefruit.co.za
Skype: antonbothmalt

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