China grants Kenya access to its fresh avocado market

By Murimi Gitari

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”A” dropcap_content=”FTER four years of lobbying, Kenya has been granted market access by the government of China to export fresh avocados.”]

The deal to export avocado to China was agreed on in April 2019 between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping but Beijing required Kenya to export only frozen avocado, which a majority of exporters could not manage owing to the high cost involved.

The directive saw only one firm out of over 100 meet the requirements laid down by the Chinese six months later after Nairobi and Beijing signed the deal.

The reversal of the initial agreement of exporting only frozen avocados, came after a successful completion of the rigorous pest risk analysis carried out by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and the National Plant Protection Organization of China, which identified quarantine pests of concern to China.

KEPHIS is the government agency responsible for assuring the quality of agricultural inputs and produce to prevent adverse impacts on the economy, the environment, and human health.

KEPHIS managing director Theophilus Mutui said all the fresh avocado fruits required to comply with all applicable Chinese phytosanitary (plant health) laws and regulations, health and safety standards and be free from any quarantine pests of concern to China.

“All producers and exporters intending to export fresh avocado to China must have all their production farms, pack houses and fumigation treatment facilities registered by KEPHIS,” said Prof. Mutui.

Producers and exporters must apply good agricultural practices (GAP), keep good sanitary conditions as well as implement integrated pest management programmes, including pest monitoring, chemical and biological control and any other pest control operations.

The exporters will also be required to monitor and manage quarantine pests of concern to China under the guidance of KEPHIS.

They will further ensure that all consignments are inspected prior to export and KEPHIS will monitor the processing, packaging, storage and transportation of the fruits.

“KEPHIS shall carry out periodic field inspection, keep monitoring records of quarantine pests as well as pest management measures implemented as well as carry out phytosanitary treatment of the fresh avocado fruits by fumigation before export,” Prof Mutui said in the statement.

China initially wanted Kenyan farmers and traders to freeze the fruits to negative 30 degree Celsius after peeling off the skin and chill further to negative 18 degrees while in transit to the destination, meaning that farmers needed to invest heavily in cold rooms to meet the requirement.

According to the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) performance report for last year, the volume of avocado export increased from 70.3 million kilos in 2020 to 84.5 million kilos in 2021. However, the value of avocado exports decreased from Ksh14.5 billion in 2020 to Ksh14.4 billion between January to November 2021

[rt_blockquote_style blockquote_style=”two” blockquote_content=”All producers and exporters intending to export fresh avocado to China must have all their production farms, pack houses and fumigation treatment facilities registered by KEPHIS”]

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