Kenyan smallholder farmers gain from lucrative hass avocado market
Henry Kiama, a middle-aged farmer from central Kenyan county of Murang’a planted avocado trees several years ago upon discovering that they guaranteed better returns compared to other cash crops.
Kiama told Xinhua during an interview that coffee farmers in his locality have embraced avocado with gusto amid the promise of higher returns yet tending to the crop is not capital or labor-intensive.
He planted his first avocado tree in 2013 and has never regretted the decision. “I have been receiving a steady income from avocados since the fruits began to mature in 2018 and my children are now able to go to decent schools,” said Kiama.
The 45-year-old farmer has planted about 220 avocado trees on two acres of land which generate over 500,000 shillings (4,600 U.S. dollars) per year in revenues compared to revenue of 2,800 dollars for coffee farming.
Avocado now accounts for half of the country’s fruit exports annually with most of the produce absorbed by Europe and the Middle East. Data from the Horticultural Crops Directorate indicates that Kenya exported 72,000 tons of avocados last year, up from 59,000 tons recorded the previous year, and is among the top five global producers of the fruit. It generated about 139 million dollars last year for the country.
Benjamin Tito, director, Horticultural Crops Directorate attributed the increased production of avocado to the favorable returns received by farmers, especially from overseas markets. The fruit is being embraced by farmers outside the traditional growing zones in the central and rift valley region.
Nathan Kirop, a farmer from northwestern Kenyan county of Nandi has also dedicated part of his farm to plant hass avocado fruit since 2015. He had set aside one acre of land to grow avocados after clearing tea bushes. “The avocado being a tree is less labor-intensive especially after it begins to bear fruit,” he said.
The farmer mobilized local farmers to establish the Nandi County Avocado Cooperative Society in order to aggregate their produce and negotiate better prices with exporters.
Carol Muthoni, owner of a one-acre farm from the central Kenyan county of Nyeri began the cultivation of the avocado fruit tree in 2016. She said the fruit offers better returns as compared to tea which is a common cash crop in her locality.
Tea provided her average revenues of 1,600 dollars compared to avocados which yield over 2,000 dollars per year. “We are able to get steady returns because of the heavy demand for avocado both in the major urban centers in Kenya and abroad,” said Muthoni.
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