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Anton Bothma, Eagle Fruit Alliance

"Kenya: Avocado export "well managed and co-ordinated"

Many Kenyan avocado growers have only a few trees and deliver their produce to one of the few central pack houses in Nairobi. They produce a product very close to being classified as organic, but they do not have the knowledge to achieve this. Many are Global Gap certified and they keep thorough records of product spray programmes. The avocados grow in the most ideal conditions in the world, right on the equator and some high up in the mountains, so very little is required for crop protection, making it almost organically produced.

All Kenyan avocado are shipped in CA (Controlled Atmosphere) containers to Europe. It is a difficult operation as ships have to go wide avoiding the Somalian pirates. The fastest route is via the Middle East, through the Suez Channel directly to Algeciras and then Antwerp. Many “briefcase operators” have tried in the past to act as go between and producers lost money. Today it is different, it is well managed and co-ordinated. The onslaught of Peru who now supply large volumes of avocado to Europe, has necessitated the Kenyan packer to be more advanced and equipped to compete. Modern packing equipment has been introduced, upgraded packing material consisting of laminated cartons and close working conditions with shipping companies have made Kenya ready to compete with the world. The Kenyan season starts in January and goes on right up to the end of September. Unlike Peru, Kenya only focuses on Europe and therefore is guided fully by their European clients.

Anton Bothma from Eagle Fruit Alliance, "After more than 30 years in fruit exports to Europe, I find that trading with avocado is much more difficult than trading with other popular commodities like apples, grapes or citrus. Not many European importers want to deal with exotics like avocado. A few weeks ago we invited all our main clients in Europe to visit all our packers. For them it was an eye opening experience to actually see the development and experience that have gone into packing avocado in Kenya."

He goes on to say that the most valuable thing about Kenyans, is their loyalty and keenness to learn from European traders on what the market wants. Experienced avocado dealers like Oscar Ramirez from Spain and Marcel van Rooijen from Holland gave valuable talks in Nairobi and their advice was welcomed by the packers. "We also had producer/exporters from South Africa and soon it became clear that Kenya has a valuable role to play in the European arena. One important lesson was that traders in Europe should be careful who they deal with. With so many “brief case” exporters, it can quickly lead to disappointments and give the true Kenyan packer a bad name."

The most popular variety is Hass. Up to now Hass produced in Kenya was rather small in size and Anton says this had to change. It was achieved by attending to production technologies. Kenya also has good volumes of Fuerte which has good fruit size. Fuerte is less popular on the European Continent and many trees are being drafted over to Hass as well as new plantings that are being done.

During the flowering season of the early crop, it rained a lot in the production areas. This resulted in less early fruit, but on the other hand, it will allow the trees to produce bigger fruit.

"The weather is good and the main crop shows signs of a vintage season that lies ahead. From now on we need the occasional rain from time to time so that the fruit can really grow big. We are busy installing a new packing machine imported from Israel and we are getting ready for the new season which is quite exciting. In fact the next job will be to appoint more trading partners to share this excitement with us.

"So we take our hat off for the Kenyan packer who is not buckled by pirates who wants to steal their ships, nor is he bombarded by doom and gloom hearing every day that Peru will soon push them out of the market. We took note, we got our house in order and we adjusted….we are ready."

Eagle Fruit represents the marketing division of 9 packers, each with it's own brand. The main brands are Kandia, Big Farm, Keitt, Sabeen, Eaga, BCS, Plainfield and Apex.

For more information:
Anton Bothma
Eagle Fruit Alliance (Pty) Ltd
Mobile: +27(0) 82 820 3707
Fax: +27(0) 86 549 7020
Skype: antonbothmalt

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