The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) is implementing an ambitious plan to intensify avocado farming in Nyamira country to promote crop diversification for food and nutrition security as well as for improved incomes.

The initiative aims to transform the crop value chain in the country into a vibrant commercialized sub-sector for improved income and livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Kenya lost the avocado market to South Africa in 2007 due to increased infestation of the fruit fly. KEPHIS has been sensitizing farmers to increase the fruit production and end the almost 10-year impasse in production.

With the new regulations by KEPHIS, the Country is likely to gain market share globally. The regulations require that avocado fruits set for export originate from production sites, packhouses and storage facilities approved by and registered by KEPHIS.

KEPHIS Board Chairman Robin Achoki maintains that Kenyans need to appreciate new farming technologies aimed at getting better yields.

“We need to embrace these interventions if indeed we are to double yields and incomes through the adoption of good agricultural practices and post-harvest management technologies,” said Achoki.

“The demand for avocado has risen in recent times as a healthy alternative to processed food and is also used as an ingredient in beauty products. Most parts of the Country have suitable soils conducive for growing avocadoes,” explained Achoki.

He explained that there is a need to raise awareness of the importance and positive impacts of plant health in addressing issues of global importance; including hunger, poverty, threats to the environment and economic development.

KEPHIS is also regulating avocado production by conducting audit checks in farms, conducting a pest risk analysis, training and building capacity for farmers on how to manage avocado pests and diseases and meet export requirements and issuing plant health certificates for the export of the fruit at exit points.

Kenya produces an estimated 115,000 metric tons of avocados annually. Out of this, 70 per cent are grown by small scale farmers.

The local market has been a major beneficiary of these avocados, but lately, this has changed drastically.

Many farmers have begun commercializing to the export market thanks to the new and growing popularity of the Hass variety.

“The Kenyan market both domestic and export is growing but limited by the production capacity of the current farmers. We want to have most of the avocados sold in local markets exported to other countries,” said Achoki adding that they have developed a business model to have farmers’ groups benefit from the project.

written by Jonathan Njuguna

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