Her story is not any different from that of Teresia Nyambura of Kahethu village, Kihumbuini, Murang’a, who as many other many farmers in the county has switched to hass avocados for higher returns.
“I had 10 trees, which I later grafted with Hass. So far I have some 20 trees,” she says, noting that then the market was not friendly as they sold to middlemen a fruit at Sh1-Sh2.50.
Teresia later joined a self-help group, Kihoto-Kihumbuini, formed in 2014 to help link avocado farmers with the market.
The group, which has 32 members, links up farmers with companies that export horticultural produce, for competitive markets, says Francis Njoroge, the chairman.
“We work with 3,500 avocado farmers, many of them who grow the Hass avocado variety mainly in Mt Kenya and North Rift. We also have farmers from Kisii and Western parts of the country deliver fruit to our packhouse,” says Jonathan Kipruto, Kakuzi horticulture assistant general manager.
To sell to the firm fruits, one must be vetted and meet Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) set guidelines for the export market, as well as those of Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis)
For HCD, these are proper record keeping of activities done on the farm; adhering to good agricultural practices; use of integrated pest management system to control pests and diseases and where chemicals are used, they should be those that are registered; ensuring fruits attain correct maturity levels before being harvested and adhering to hygiene during harvesting, hence meeting food safety standards.
Kephis, on the other hand, needs farmers to meet phytosanitary requirements that include hass avocado fruits are free of pests and diseases and integrated pest management systems to control pests and diseases.
Mr Kipruto says the company only deals with and supports genuine farmers, a majority of them smallholders.
“We pay farmers a visit to ascertain they grow avocados before registering them as suppliers.
Besides that, other requirements we usually look out for are that mature fruits should have a maximum moisture content of 77 per cent, fruits should be free of defects and diseases and they should be of good sizes of 12-24 which fetch best process in the international market.”
As demand for the fruits in international markets grow, farmers are advised to observe good agricultural practices.
“They should get seedlings from nurseries approved by Kephis. A big pot size indicates a well-developed plantlet. One should observe leaf colour, which should be dark and glossy,” says Laban Mwaura, Kakuzi PLC assistant manager, extension services.
After land preparation, two feet cubic holes should be dug. The ideal space between the trees is 7 by 7 metres, he says, adding that though spacing depends on the farmer, size of the land and future plans like mixed cropping are key.
“Mix top soil with manure, agricultural lime, and fertiliser rich in phosphorus then sow the Hass seedlings. Ensure you don’t leave a basin to prevent seedlings from rotting due to stagnant water.”
Mwaura advises that seedlings should be staked to provide strength and support as they grow.
“Watering should be frequent and foliar fertiliser applied, top-dressing, pruning and scouting of pests and diseases should also be done.”
Under good agricultural practices, Hass avocado starts fruiting at two-and-half to three years after planting.
Mature fruits are ready for harvest when the colour is dark green and moisture content should be below 77 per cent.
On average, a tree can yield over 500 fruits per season.
Last year, the price of Hass avocado (packed in a four kilos carton), ranged from Sh18-39.60 per fruit, based on size, export market.
For quality hass avocado seedlings contact us via 0724-559286 or 0790-509684
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