Concern as avocado thieves raid farms in Murang’a

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Green Hass Avocados fruits hanging [Standard]

Murang’a farmers have raised concerns over recent increased theft of their avocado from farms.

The farmers have decried the trend as causing them huge losses and posing a risk of exporting immature avocado to international markets.

The farmers led by their cooperative union officials, petitioned the Murang’a County Assembly to formulate a law which will protect their produce.

Presenting the petition before the Assembly Speaker, Nduati Kariuki, the farmers accused the existence of brokers who are said to perpetuate theft of avocado from farms.

Chairman of Murang’a Avocado Cooperative Union John Mwaniki said the farmers complained that the unlicensed middlemen are using youth to steal avocado from farmers’ farms and sell to them at meager prices.

“During this season of harvesting avocado, some brokers have opened illegal buying centres in local markets where they get cheap fruits which are stolen from farms,” Mwaniki said.

On his part, the Speaker said the assembly will amend and pass the county avocado Production and Processing Bill 2020 which was rejected by a section of stakeholders.

He assured the farmers his office will work with the county security team to tame the theft of avocado from farms.

He explained that together with the office of the county commissioner, unlicensed buyers and transporters of avocado will be apprehended.

According to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), premature harvesting of Avocados is main reason why export windows of popular varieties are closed.

Premature harvesting

Director of the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) Benjamin Tito says horticulture earnings dropped by Sh20 billion in the first quarter of this year on the back of low-quality avocados and a sharp decline in returns from flowers.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data indicates the export value of the produce declined to Sh26 billion in the period under review from Sh46 billion in the corresponding time a year earlier.

Tito said a good number of avocados that were exported were not mature enough, leading to low value and huge rejection of the produce in the world market, which would have lifted earnings.

“In the first quarter of the year there are normally no Kenyan avocados that are ready enough for export and we have traders who are tempted to push immature crop to the market, leading to low earnings and huge rejection,” said Tito.

However, Tito said, export earnings for horticulture will pick from April going forward after the ban on harvesting of avocado was lifted in March.

Kenya was the leading exporter of avocado in Africa in 2020 and it’s among the top ten world’s largest exporters.

The regulation was implemented after it was discovered that harvesting and exporting of premature avocadoes had negatively affected the image of the country in overseas markets, in addition to interfering with the cropping cycle of trees thereby reducing the projected volumes and subsequent harvests.

HCD’s performance report for last year indicates 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 Sh14.5 billion in 2020 to Sh14.4 billion between January to November 2021.

The crops regulator is working at diversifying the market as it seeks to cut reliance on the European market which it says could have a negative impact on Kenya’s produce in the event that the market becomes volatile.

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