Kenyan Avocados: Connecting to High-value Export Markets

Kenya is frequently cited as a “bright spot” in African agriculture. Conducive government policy, strong donor support and private-sector leadership have helped to create success stories in exports to the EU. Policy changes supporting this growth include the liberalization of the fertilizer market. Following the removal of price controls and subsidies, increased competition led to lower fertilizer end-prices, triggering a 14 percentage-point increase in adoption rates among smallholders. Today, agriculture amounts to half of Kenyan GDP and employs 75% of the Kenyan workforce. Kenyan policy-makers and agribusiness players continue to prioritize the growth of agricultural exports, both in green beans and other cash crops like avocados. be

Kenya is one of the world’s largest producers of avocados, with production of 200,000 tons in 2017.For comparison, the largest producer is Mexico with about 1 million tons produced annually. Local varieties dominate Kenyan production (about 70% of total), whereas Fuerte and Hass, the varieties suitable for export, make up approximately 20% and 10%, respectively.

 

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Kenyan Avocado Export Supply Chain

 

An estimated 70% of Kenyan avocados – even those for export – are produced on smallholder farms. When not linked to exporters through an out-grower scheme, farmers market their avocados through middlemen, either legally government-certified agents or unofficial brokers. These middlemen typically harvest avocados themselves and organize transport to Nairobi packhorses. This initial leg of transport is usually done with small pickup trucks. Once at the factory, avocados are quality-checked, sorted, washed, waxed, pre-cooled and packed in cartons. Once packed, exporters stuff the cartons into refrigerated containers (“reefers”) outside the processing gate, and shipping companies then transport the reefers to the Mombasa port. There, the reefers, which are controlled-atmosphere-treated, are loaded onto a ship and later trans-shipped in Salalah, Oman. Finally, the reefer containers are unloaded in Europe and delivered to importers

Most often vertically integrated with exporters, packers procure and package a 4-kilogram (kg) carton of avocados at a cost of about US$ 4.10. An additional US$ 1.60/carton is required for shipping to Europe by sea in a reefer. With the import price fluctuating around US$ 7-8/carton, the supply chain overall is profitable. This situation was enabled by government-led infrastructure investments, followed by private-sector investment in reefers, which helped to reduce transport costs versus expensive air shipments. Once this tipping point of profitability was reached, investments started to naturally flow into the sector.

Impacts of Supply Chain Barriers and Potential Solutions

Successful initiatives to overcome supply chain barriers are presented, as well as some remaining opportunities to overcome challenges to future growth.

Transport and Communications Infrastructure

Mombasa is the pivotal port for East African countries and is accessed via the main corridor, the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. By the early 1990s, the quality of this road had deteriorated due to high traffic. The Kenyan government, with the help of the World Bank and the EU, decided to invest in rehabilitating the highway.  Investments were made over approximately a decade, ending in 2005. Travel time from Nairobi to Mombasa was reduced by 40%, from 12 to 7-8 hours, and costs decreased as well. Typically, road rehabilitation projects in East Africa drive operational cost reductions of 15%. Although this saving has a marginal impact on the Kenyan avocado industry – less than 1% of the European end price – the incremental benefit is applied to many different value chains. The overall benefit for Kenya and Kenyan agricultural export value chains is thereby important.

Also Read: READ MORE TIRED OF GROWING MAIZE AND BEANS, TRY HASS AVOCADOS

 

Introduction of reefer container technology has made Europe accessible for Kenyan avocados.

One of the major challenges previously faced by this industry was the lack of suitable transport equipment. If not cooled, avocados ripen faster than the time it takes to ship them to Europe. Exports to Europe, therefore, were only possible through expensive air shipments. Alternatively, transporting by sea was only feasible for the more proximate Middle East, where avocados sell for much less than in Europe.

Recognizing this opportunity, exporters first engaged temperature-controlled, break-bulk vessels to replace expensive air freight. They then approached A.P. Moller-Maersk to present the business case for refrigerated container transport. Shipping companies consider a number of factors when evaluating a value chain for reefer investment. Most importantly, they look at the economics and growth potential of the value chain. In this case, if Kenyan avocados were able to be sold profitably when transported by air, there was a clear case for investment in sea freight, provided quality could be maintained during the journey. In addition, key enablers must be in place to ensure sustainable operations. Fortunately, the Kenyan government had invested in the Mombasa port and was able to provide the necessary infrastructure (e.g. specific plugs, berth capacity) to support reefers. Continuous investments are being made to accompany the growth of reefers in the Mombasa port, including a new berth to open this year.

Read Also: HASS AVOCADO FARMERS FROM CENTRAL-KENYA ENJOYING EXPORT OPPORTUNITY

Early packing of containers ensures an uninterrupted cold chain. When dealing with perishable produce, maintaining an uninterrupted cold chain is critical for food quality and safety. When reefers were first introduced, exporters preferred to transport avocados to Mombasa in regular trucks and pack the reefers at the port. Over time, exporters realized that they could command a price premium in EU markets if a cold chain was begun as close to the farm as possible. This price premium outweighed the costs of bringing an empty reefer to Nairobi and loading it at the pack house gate. This extended cold-chain-arrangement also simplified logistics by eliminating one touch-point at the port, and is now common practice.

For more information on how to become a better Hass Avocado Farmer, kindly visit our offices or contact us.

Shop for our certified hass avocado seedlings.

 

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GRAPES SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=GRAPES SEEDLINGS" > Grapes are often ignored in home gardens, and yet are one of the most widely produced fruit in the world—as well as beautifully ornamental plants. We have plenty of tips for growing grapes in your homestead.
Grape vines not only produce sweet and versatile fruits, they add an element of drama to a garden or landscape. They are vigorous growers, and with the proper pruning, they will produce fruit with ease and can last longer than 30 years.
The crop prefers warm to hot temperatures; during fruiting, the weather must be sunny and dry. Warm environmental temperatures during fruit ripening, is important in increasing the sugar content of berries while reducing their acidity. This explains why grapes grown under irrigation in hot deserts or semi deserts are sweeter than those from cold humid areas.
The crop can grow in any soil, from sandy to heavy clays but the soil should be deep and well drained. Where the rainfall is scant, supplement it with an irrigation of 500 mm of water during the cropping season. In Kenya, the cropping season is September to March.
Irrigation should be withheld after the long rains so as to force the crop to go dormant.
In August to September, fruit buds form thus it is important to keep the plant healthy and well manured.
There are plenty of health benefits in consuming grapes for they are a rich source of Vitamins- A, C, K and minerals such as iron, copper, manganese.

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APPLES SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=APPLES SEEDLINGS" > Apples trees can grow in a wide range of soils from medium textured clays to gravelly sands. However, poor soils will produce poor results and the best crops are found on fertile sandy soils and loams.
Soils should be well drained. Wet soils lead to poor aeration and increased incidence of crown rot in apples (Phytophthora cactorum). Generally, rooting tends to be shallow, and wet soils will restrict development, resulting in poor anchorage of the tree and a reduced area of soil from which nutrients can be extracted. Soils with high organic matter contents are normally better structured and allow good rooting.
Irrigation is necessary on dry soils, particularly when establishing and growing young orchards. Trickle irrigation and fertigation are increasingly used. In young orchards fertigation helps increase early tree growth and brings trees into bearing earlier. Sprinkler irrigation can be used to protect the tree buds and fruitlets against frost damage.
Sowing of a grass mulch between the tree rows is common practice, which together with any clippings, helps to increase water holding capacity, infiltration rate, soil aggregation and recycling of nutrients.
Apples prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH between 5.8 and 7.0). Extreme soil pH values result in nutrient tie-up or toxicity and poor tree and fruit development. It is important to amend the pH in acidic soils by incorporating lime before planting

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TANGERINES SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=TANGERINES SEEDLINGS" > Tangerines grow well in areas that don’t have harsh winters and will produce an abundance of flavorful fruit every year with just a little bit of help. The fruit often ripens in the winter or early spring, making tangerines a popular winter snack and a traditional Christmas favorite in many homes. While a single tree can produce fruit on its own, planting more than one tangerine cultivar in an area can increase the yield of tangerines on all the trees.
Tangerines are relatively cold-tolerant, making them easier to grow than oranges, grapefruits and other types of citrus. Some varieties, such as the Citrus reticulata "Dancy," are heat-tolerant and do best when summers are hot, but other types, including the Citrus reticulata "Sunburst," do best when summers are on the cool side.
Citrus species can thrive in a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. Citrus is grown from sea level up to an altitude of 2100 m but for optimal growth a temperature range from 2° to 30° C is ideal. Long periods below 0°C are injurious to the trees and at -13° C growth diminishes. However, individual species and varieties decrease in susceptibility to low temperatures in the following sequence: grapefruit, sweet orange, mandarin, lemon/lime and trifoliate orange as most hardy.
Temperature plays an important role in the production of high quality fruit. Typical coloring of fruit takes place if night temperatures are about 14° C coupled with low humidity during ripening time. Exposure to strong winds and temperatures above 38° C may cause fruit drop, scarring and scorching of fruits. In the tropics, the high lands provide the best night weather for orange color and flavor.

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MACADAMIA SEEDLINGS

<span data-recalc-dims=MACADAMIA SEEDLINGS" > Macadamia is a beautiful tree, very forgiving; resilient to all weather, accommodative for old
people; they don’t need to work so hard nor climb to pick the nuts but wait for them to fall. The macadamia nut tree is indigenous to Australia but introduced in Kenya in 1945 to 1948. In Kenya, it grows roughly in the same climate suitable for growing coffee.
The grafted seedling takes 3-4 months to be ready for planting out in the farm. Seedlings are planting out in the field at a spacing of 9m x 9m or 10 m x 10 m or more if the trees are
intercropped with coffee or any other crop e.g. maize; however, if they are being planted as pure orchard, the spacing should be 4m x 10 m or 5 m x 10 m.
Kenya is sitting on a gold mine that if properly utilized would reap huge benefits for the country.
For many years, tea and coffee farming has been the major source of income for thousands of
farmers, however they are now changing tides and switching to macadamia nut farming.
Macadamia has become a lucrative produce all over sudden with a kilo of the nuts selling for
more than a hundred and a grafted seedling price shooting up from 300 to 500 Kenya Shillings.
Between1986 to 2002 the price ranged between 7 to 23 Shillings per kg., and in 2005 it averaged
80 Shillings per Kg.
The Kenya macadamia nut industry is currently made of approximately 900,000 trees of varying ages from one year to 20 years, grown by over 100,000 small scale farmers with an average of 6 -12 trees per grower. Annual production is about 4,000 metric tons of nuts-in-shell. These produce about 800 metric tons of marketable kernels, making the main commercial product. Other by products such as oil, are minimal. Producers get from nuts-in-shell Shillings 92 million per year.
Kenya is the third largest macadamia producer and the second largest exporter of macadamias. Many Kenyan farmers are integrating macadamia trees into their coffee and tea plantations. They view macadamia output as insurance against the uncertainties of weather which affect coffee and tea.

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