Kenya has announced plans to prioritize avocado exports to China.
It hopes to boost revenues since it generated $128 million by exporting 68,000 tons of avocados between January and October.
Speaking in Nairobi on Nov 9, Benjamin Tito, the chief executive at Kenya's Directorate of Horticulture, said avocado sales to China generate high returns for Kenya, as they are shipped frozen and, hence, are value-added.
"China has the capacity to emerge as the largest importer of avocados due to its huge population," Tito said.
"We have received positive responses from consumers in that market. And, therefore, local producers are preparing to make more shipments."
He added that, in order to meet the expected Chinese demand, cultivation has been expanded beyond central Kenya to other regions, such the country's western region.
The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya's chief executive, Hosea Machuki, said that avocados earn foreign-exchange income for the nation, since the fruit accounts for about a fifth of horticultural exports.
"In 2020, up to the end of October, we have exported 68,000 tons," Machuki said.
"The key driver of increasing exports of avocados is the expansion of the area under cultivation with farmers outside traditional growing zones embracing the fruit."
He noted that the East African nation possesses huge potential for expanded avocado production by both small-and large-scale farmers and is already one of the world's largest producers.
"Our avocados are grown naturally in the most ideal conditions in the world, right on the equator. Thus, they require very little crop protection, making them mostly organically grown and produced," Machuki said.
Machuki said 70 percent of the fruit is grown by smallholders, who have between 5 and 20 trees per homestead, while 20 percent comes from medium-scale farmers and the rest is cultivated in commercial plantations.
Avocado Society of Kenya chief executive Ernest Muthomi said that, despite the pandemic, this year's avocado exports have surpassed the volumes for the same period last year since the demand for Kenyan avocados has increased both domestically and internationally.
"Our avocado exports this year exceeded 68,000 tons compared to last year's 43,000. The demand for fruits and fresh vegetables has continually been on the rise since the pandemic began," he said.
"Of course, when countries were put on lockdown, we experienced challenges as restaurants and cafes are usually our first point of distribution in the international market. So, when they were closed, there was a slight slump in demand. But this didn't last long."
Kenya started exporting avocados to China in September 2019, after meeting all the market requirements in a deal signed by President Xi Jinping and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Key to the deal was the requirement that Kenya would only be allowed to export frozen avocados to control such pests as fruit flies.