Kenya sets sights on fruit exports

Tuesday June 07 2016

Mr Maina Karuiru checks his avocado fruit trees in Mathira. According to Kephis, there is a huge market for horticultural crops in the European and Middle East countries, which Kenya intends to exploit. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Kenya has set its eyes on horticultural crops and fruits in a bid to shore up earnings from the export market.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) acting managing director, Ms Esther Kimani, said according to a survey they undertook, there is a high demand for the produce in foreign markets.

“We want to encourage farmers to venture into fruits cultivation because there is a huge market,” Dr Kimani told Smart Company last week.

He said European Union has removed some of the 10 per cent requirements after the country met its standards.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett urged local farmers to shift their focus to horticulture from over-reliance on traditional crops to improve their income and boost the country’s economy.

“We want to tell our farmers to plant crops such as macadamia and avocados.


The markets for these crops are insatiable. As they maize, farmers need to diversify,” said Mr Bett, when he launched grafted Hass variety of avocado in Kaptel, Nandi County last week.

He said that there is a huge market for the crops in the European and Middle East countries.

“This programme will be championed throughout the country.

We want farmers in the North Rift region to also take advantage of the Eldoret International Airport as most flights return without any cargo,” said Mr Bett.


Some of the countries where Kenya is eyeing their markets include United Arabs Emirates (UAE) and South Korea.

At the same time, Dr Kimani said South Africa experts are dissatisfied with Kenya’s progress of pest control measures on avocados.

“We were unable to meet their requirements of the avocado exports due to fruit flies.

We want to adopt the strategy used in fighting the pest in mangoes in Elgeyo Marakwet County that bore fruit,” she said.

Ms Kimani said to win the war against pests, more public-private investments are needed.


Mzee Francis Kiplagat displays the traps used to catch fruit flies in his mango farm in Kerio Valley. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“Counties also need to develop by-laws because you cannot eradicate fruit flies on your farm when your neighbour has not done so. Creation of pest-free areas is the way to go,” she said.

In 2010, South Africa banned the export of avocado after the local produce was found to be infested with fruit fly.

Dr Kimani said this dealt a big blow to Kenyan farmers noting that avocado exports to South Africa were on average earning local farmers Sh120 million every year.

According to experts, although the South African market is relatively small for the Kenyan avocado industry, the ban has the potential to shake the confidence of international market of the local produce.

After South Africa shut its market, Mauritius followed suit.


Origin of the pest

Concerns over fruit fly emerged in 2003, and industry insiders say the pest is thought to have originated from Sri Lanka.

Apart from avocados, fruit fly attacks mangoes, guavas, citrus, papayas, tomatoes, bananas, cashew nuts, pepper, pears, melons and other tropical fruits.