KENYA – Kenya’s Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) has extended the ban on the export of Kenya’s popular avocado varieties to overseas markets to curb the harvesting of immature crop.

HCD is in charge of regulating, promoting, coordinating, developing and facilitating operations of the horticultural sub-sector to ensure smooth production and marketing environment and to advocate for policies that favor investment and enhanced performance of the sub-sector.

Benjamin Tito, Head of HCD, said the ban on Fuerte and Hass varieties which took effect on November 15, 2021 will continue indefinitely. However, it exempts the export of jumbo avocado varieties and those having off-season crops.

The food regulator noted the ban will remain in effect in order to control the export of immature avocadoes which have negatively impacted the image of the commodity in overseas markets. Previously, there were rampant cases of traders picking young crops to capitalize on high prices of the commodity at the international market.

“Harvesting and export of immature avocadoes have interfered with the cropping cycle of trees thereby reducing projected volumes in subsequent harvests,” said Tito.

He said exporters with the Jumbo variety, who are still allowed to ship out, will only do it by air and not sea with the weight expected to be at least 184 grammes for a single fruit.

Dealers and companies with off-season crop shall request verification for inspection from the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) regional offices in writing within 24 hours, a requirement that has been in place since November 15 last year.

The review on when the ban was to be lifted was conducted on January 18 to ascertain the status of the crop. Exporters had projected that the export market would be opened next month as it has been the tradition.

“The directorate has been closely monitoring harvest trends, patterns and undertaking surveys to authenticate the maturity indices of the avocado fruit in the major production zones. The recent survey indicated that the main season crop is still immature,” Mr. Tito said.

HCD further warned that exporters who use marketing agents without valid registration permits shall have their licenses revoked.

“Exporters transporting avocados without appropriate packaging and on open pick-ups, Probox or canters contrary to the Crops regulations, 2020 shall be penalized,” said Tito

Avocado has been a major contributor of the earnings in the horticulture sector, raking in nearly half of the total returns from fruits. Kenya’s avocado market in the Middle East was hit in 2018 following the export of immature crop to that continent.

The price of avocado to Dubai dropped by almost half in 2018 as exports of immature crop hit the value of the produce to that market.

The HCD indicated that the price of a unit of avocado dropped from Ksh945 (USD 8.23) previously to Ksh 432 (USD 3.80) in that year.

The decline resulted from immature avocados that were being exported to Dubai by unscrupulous businessmen following high demand of fruit in the world market.

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