In Summary
  • Kenya’s journey to the 1.4 billion strong Chinese market has taken seven years as Beijing has been uncomfortable with the presence of fruit flies in Nairobi’s avocados.
  • The requirements they gave in order to have local avocados flown to Beijing are more stringent than those of the existing markets.
  • KenTrade CEO Amos Wangora said the way out for farmers is to pool together in cooperatives so as to enjoy the economies of scale.

A logistical nightmare and the high costs of meeting tough conditions required for the export of Kenyan avocados to China are threatening to choke the lucrative deal inked last month.

The stringent conditions, which include requiring a farmer to peel and freeze the fruit before export, could lock out thousands of small-scale farmers who are eyeing the world’s largest market.

According to the rules seen by Saturday Nation, a farmer has to instal machines and coolers for peeling and freezing of the fruit ahead of export.

They will have to freeze the peeled fruits to negative 30 degrees Celsius and chill further to negative 18 degrees while on transit to the destination.

This means that farmers will have to invest heavily in cold rooms and meticulously follow all the requirements to reap from the deal billed as the game changer for Kenya’s agriculture.

The peeling and freezing requirement adds to 56 steps a trader has to take shuttling from one government agency to another to get an avocado export clearance.

FRUIT FLIES

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) on Friday warned the conditions set by the Chinese might limit small-scale farmers’ access to the market.

“Given the requirements, most small-scale farmers cannot afford to sell their avocados to China,” Kephis Managing Director Esther Kimani said.

The peeling of the fruit before freezing is a new condition for the export of avocados.

It is not in the regulations guiding export of the fruit to existing export markets, including the European Union, the Middle East and Asia.

Kenya’s journey to the 1.4 billion strong Chinese market has taken seven years as Beijing has been uncomfortable with the presence of fruit flies in Nairobi’s avocados.

It took an okay from Chinese inspectors in March and a visit to the Asian nation by President Uhuru Kenyatta in April to unlock the deal.

COOPERATIVES

The inspectors from the Chinese National Plant Protection Organisation flew in to undertake a rigorous risk analysis - including inspection of local avocado fruits, farms, laboratories and holding bays for the fruit at the airports.

While they gave a clean bill of health that led to the signing of the bilateral pact, the requirements they gave in order to have local avocados flown to Beijing are more stringent than those of the existing markets.

A kilogramme of avocado fetches up to Sh2,000 ($20) in China compared to Kenya’s Sh80, while avocado powder in the Asian country could earn up to Sh10,000 per kilo.

“If we do not comply, China will suspend the exports and continuous non-compliance will lead to a total ban,” warned Dr Kimani, saying Kephis had upped its antenna to protect the deal.

Mr Amos Wangora, the CEO of KenTrade, an agency that facilitates export business, said the way out for farmers is to pool together in cooperatives so as to enjoy the economies of scale around transport, refrigeration and other expenses.

COMMITMENT

Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPCK) chief executive Okisegere Ojepat said that the Chinese want frozen fruits because they are still wary of fruit flies, scales, and traceability issues.

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