KENYA – Avocado suppliers have called for an eight-month exemption to comply with regulations published by Agricultural Food Authority (AFA) set to be implemented on March 24, as the harvesting season draws close.

In a seven-hour meeting held at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) headquarters in Kandara, the marketing agents expressed uncertainty about being able to comply with the stringent measures the regulatory body has imposed for this export calendar.

They pleaded with the Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) to allow them to operate for eight months as they prepare to comply.

In the regulations, the marketing agents are required to transport the fruits in plastic boxes and not bundle them in pickups, as the mode of transport will compromise the quality of the fruits.

Peter Kuria, an employee on a farm, said transporting the avocado would require a truck as opposed to a Probox that carries 6,000 pieces and if packed in crates, can only transport 15 crates estimated at 300 kilograms.

“The players require ample time to buy trucks to be able to transport the fruits from the farmers to the processors. In the new regulations, a crate will carry between 80 and 100 fruits depending on the size,” said Kuria.

Summarizing the plea of all the members, Avocado Marketing Agents Chairman Joseph Mukuria said the players in the sector were interested in complying with the law only if given time to organize themselves.

Sarah Ndegwa, the HDC official in charge of Kiambu county, told the suppliers that there was a growing concern about the quality of the Kenyan avocado in the international market.

According to Ndegwa, the debate on the introduction of the regulations has been a subject of discussion since 2018 to ensure Kenya’s quality was not compromised.

“Transporting the avocado in crates is a good idea, but the marketing agents are required to train their assistants in the field on how to care for the fruits so that they are not rejected,” said Ndegwa.

Five days ago, AFA said all avocado fruits for export will be subjected to 100 percent inspection before being shipped to international markets. It is among the new regulation that the authority has put in place.

The Director of the Authority’s Horticultural Crops Directorate Benjamin Tito advised exporters to apply for the inspection at least three days before the shipment of the produce.

In a circular to exporters, AFA had called on them to avail lists of their horticultural produce marketing agents on or before March 16, to sieve out unlicensed exporters.

Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya Chief Executive Officer Okisegere Ojepat said the regulations if enforced, would help in tracing the origin of the avocado and protect the market.

He added that the regulations will improve quality and ignore those harvesting immature avocados, allowing the closing and opening of avocado harvesting seasons, and licensing of the players in the sector.

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