KENYA – To ensure quality, the agricultural company Kakuzi will begin harvesting and exporting hass avocados to China and Europe mid-next month.

The 2023 avocado harvesting season officially began on March 24, 2023, according to a statement from the Agricultural and Food Administration (AFA Horticultural )’s Crops Directorate (HCD), which also advised producers against picking immature fruit.

Recent maturity tests, according to Kakuzi Plc Managing Director Chris Flowers, have shown that the company’s current crop planted at its Makuyu orchard in Murang’a County has not yet reached the required maturity and related quality criteria for export.

He revealed that the avocados currently have a dry matter content of 19% as opposed to the recommended 24%.

Harvesting and exporting immature fruit, Flowers said, is detrimental to the firm’s national avocado development initiatives. As such, the company is offering free maturity testing services to smallholder growers to guarantee that only avocados with a minimum dry matter standard of 24 percent are harvested.

“Maturity testing has been ongoing with the important parameters of dry matter content being closely monitored on our orchards and affiliated smallholder farmers.

“Whilst maturity can vary from growing region to growing region at Kakuzi, the minimum dry matter we export at is 24% up to a maximum maturity of 35%, which we reach by mid-September,” Flowers said.

Avocados should be harvested when they are fully mature, which is defined by a minimum dry matter content of 24 percent, in accordance with HCD.

The Directorate also stated in a public notice that picking avocados when their dry matter content has reached more than 24 percent minimizes the risk of mesocarp bruising.

“By measuring that the dry matter content, and hence oil content, is correct before we export, we can provide our customers with the best eating experience of quality avocados.

“No one wants to buy an avocado you can’t eat. Our dry matter content is only 19%, so we have another month before our fruit reaches an export quality,” Flowers stated.

Last year, Kakuzi became the first local entity to secure approval from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to process and prepare export-grade fresh avocados for the Chinese market.

This is after the company invested more than Kshs 200 million (US$1.75m) between the 2021-2022 period to guarantee quality production and environmental management practices that align with both local and globally recognized standards.

The firm secured its KEPHIS approval following a stringent phytosanitary audit for its extensive Kakuzi farms and packhouse.

Alongside the GLOBALG.A.P. certification, Kakuzi PLC has secured several local and international operating accreditations’ including the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) Diamond Mark of Quality and the FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management systems.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.