When President Uhuru Kenyatta traveled to China in April 2019, he and his host Xi Jinping reached a deal on Kenyan avocado exports to the Asian country.
However, Beijing strictly required Kenya to export only frozen avocado. It locked out the fresh produce due to the prevalence of fruit flies locally.
This saw the country export only one 20-foot container of avocado the following year (2020).
According to the Horticultural Crops Directorate, most exporters were unable to meet the requirements with only one out of 100 making it.
The Chinese government however last month allowed Kenya to export fresh avocado after years of lobbying.
Kenya completed a rigorous Pest Risk Analysis carried out by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) and the National Plant Protection Organisation of China, which identified quarantine pests of concern to China that should be controlled before export.
Kephis on Tuesday announced it has stepped up field audits and facility inspections for more than ten avocado growers and exporters planning to explore the Chinese market.
Kephis is a government parastatal whose responsibility is to assure the quality of agricultural inputs and produce to prevent adverse impacts on the economy, the environment, and human health.
It has completed the required phytosanitary assessments with its trade facilitation undertaking expected to unlock the export opportunity of locally grown fresh avocados valued at more than $1million (about Sh114.6 million) ) annually.
According to managing director Theophilus Mutui, the regulatory agency is working flat out, to ensure that all eligible avocado growers and packhouses that meet the stringent phytosanitary standards are accorded an opportunity to enjoy the Chinese market prospects.
Speaking at an official visit of Kakuzi Plc Orchards and Packhouse in Murang’a County, yesterday, Kephis general manager in charge of Phytosanitary Services, Isaac Macharia, said the national plant health regulatory agency is actively playing its part to support the export of fresh fruits to China.
This, as the local HASS avocado harvest season opens next month.
Kenya’s Agriculture CS Peter Munya and the Chinese Ambassador Zhou Pingjian signed two protocols to facilitate bilateral trade, mainly the export of avocados and aquatic products from Kenya to China in January this year.
According to Dr Macharia, KEPHIS has initiated registration and inspection where several avocado growers have been audited, including listed agro-business firm Kakuzi Plc, their orchards and packhouses.
“The next step for us now is to share the list with our counterparts in China for final registration,” Macharia said.
Kephis will also undertake stringent pre-shipment inspections for all containers before they are exported to ensure compliance with the Chinese plant health standards.
The standards include the mandatory fumigation with methyl bromide and temperature control of all shipments departing Kenya for China.
Kakuzi, a major player in avocado exports has welcomed the move.
“The support will play a crucial role in diversifying Kenya’s avocado export markets beyond the current European and Middle East Markets.” managing director Chris Flowers said.
While describing the Chinese market as highly discerning and quality conscious, Flowers said local avocado growers, including small scale out-growers and exporters, are well-positioned to explore the far east market as long as they adhere to the laid down regulations.
This latest developments have also excited individual farmers eying the export market.