Vihiga governor eyes China market, farmers get free avocado seedlings

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Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo has rolled out an initiative to supply farmers with 20,000 avocado seedlings with an eye on the Chinese market following an importation agreement signed between Kenya and Beijing last month.

Dr. Ottichilo said the Sh4.5 million project for local farmers is motivated by the creation of the new foreign market in the populous Asian country.

In April 2019, Kenya signed an agreement with China to export avocados to the populous Asian nation with estimated 1.4bn consumers. In this, it is expected that China will absorb more than 40 percent of the produce from the country once the agreement is fully implemented. Kenya also exports tea and coffee to the international market.

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Vihiga County Government will lay down the ground for exportation of the fruit when it matures in 2020.

According to the county’s website, Vihiga economy is predominantly agriculture with approximately 85 percent of the population having their livelihood mainly from agricultural activities which include tea farming, livestock farming, and horticulture.

According to statistics by the International Trade Center, Kenya became the largest exporter of avocados in Africa in 2017, exporting a record volume of 51, 507 tons to the world. South Africa was ranked second with 43, 492 tons.

Kenya has over 40 varieties of avocado. Hass is the main export variety and is preferred due to higher fat content than other varieties which gives it a richer taste while Fuerte is preferred for processing.

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Hass avocado variety is on demand in the international markets such as UAE, UK, Russia and Spain with more than 70 per cent market share.

Other commercial varieties are Keitt, Reed, Booth 8, Simmonds, Pinkerton, Nabal, Puebla, Tonnage, Ettinger, Hayes, G6 and G7. Varieties used as rootstocks include Puebla, Fuerte, Duke, G6, and G7 according to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization.

Kenya’s pool of the biggest avocado importers includes the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and more recently, the Russian Federation.

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The UAE tops the list with some 12, 041 tons followed by the Netherlands with 10, 556 tons. France is the third biggest importer: its net volume stood at 10, 423 tons in the same year. Saudi Arabia is the country’s fourth importer with some 4, 874 tons worth of imports in 2017.

The Russian Federation currently holds the 5th position in trade volumes that have culminated at 4,171 tons in 2017. The United Kingdom and Spain close the top seven with volumes that verged on 2,944 and 1,734 tons respectively in 2017.

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According to the 2019 Economic Survey Report, the area under coffee production increased from 114.7 thousand hectares in 2016/17 to 115.6 thousand hectares in 2017/18, mainly on account of smallholder co-operatives.

The quantity of coffee produced increased by 7.0 percent from 38.7 thousand tonnes in 2016/17 to 41.4 thousand tonnes in 2017/18.

Tea production increased by 12.1 percent to 493,000 tonnes in 2018.

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