Thousands of Kenyan small-scale farmers are set to be left out in the cold from accessing China’s market due to Beijing's stringent entry rules

A Kenyan small-scale avocado farmer. (Farmbiz Africa)
  • China wants 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.
  • Kephis will be required to monitor the peeling and cooling process to ensure Kenya exporters meet the standards failure to which the country risks a total ban.
  • Beijing’s stringent entry rules which includes freezing the fruits will see thousands of Kenyan farmers locked out form the lucrative market.

Thousands of small-scale avocado farmers in Kenya are set to miss out on China’s market even after the country is set to export her first bunch of avocados after years of lobbying and negotiation.

Beijing’s stringent entry rules which includes freezing the fruits will see thousands of Kenyan farmers locked out form the lucrative market.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), which will oversee the export of avocados, says small-scale farmers who represent seventy percent of avocado growers will be required to install machines and coolers for peeling and freezing of the fruit ahead of export. The condition is likely to leave thousands of poor farmers who have no means of purchasing the freezing equipment out in the cold.

“Most small-scale farmers cannot afford to sell their avocados to China but they can still sell it locally to other established firms that make avocado products,” said Kephis managing director Esther Kimani.

China wants 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 due to Beijing’s wariness with the presence of fruit flies pest in the Kenyan avocados.

Kephis will be required to monitor the peeling and cooling process to ensure Kenya exporters meet the standards failure to which the country risks a total ban.

“If we do not comply, China will suspend the exports, however, continuous non-compliance will lead to a total ban,” said the managing director.

Kenya has been fighting over the last seven years to have its avocado access the Chinese market in its full form. Last month China finally gave Kenyan avocados the green light to access its vast market in what was hailed as a landmark deal.

In recent years, the popularity of the fruit has soared around the world due to increased awareness of their health benefits. Something which has seen thousands of coffee Kenyan farmers turn to planting avocado trees now increasingly seen as the ‘green gold,’ with 7,500 hectares currently under cultivation.

In March 2018, Kenyan listed company, Kakuzi limited also announced it will stop growing its trademark crop, pineapples after more than two decades of planting the crop and instead adopt fast moving and growing avocados whose demand has skyrocketed globally.

Chinese inspectors were in the country in March ahead of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Beijing in April to inspect the fruit.

“Inspectors from China who were here in March were concerned over fruit flies on our avocado and they only allowed us to export on condition that the fruits are frozen,” Kimani said.

Meanwhile, Dr Kimani said Kephis is working round the clock to ensure that the pests are eliminated and have Kenya export fresh avocados to China.

It is not China alone however, which is wary about the fruit flies. Kenya recently just resumed export of avocado to South Africa after close to 10 years of not accessing the market as a result of the fruit flies that led to the ban.

Kenya's is currently Africa's top avocado exporter after it overtook South Africa, Africa’s second-biggest economy last year to emerge as the continent's number one exporter and the world's sixth largest exporter of the fruit, according to International Trade Centre (ITC) data. 

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