Kenya is on a roll, following a 2022 entry into the lucrative China market. The first shipment of its avocados into India means Kenya has tapped two key world markets amid surging global demand for the fruit.
By Bonface Orucho
Kenya has successfully made its first avocado exports to India, tapping into a promising 1.4 billion consumer market, according to reports by Kenya’s state broadcaster, KBC.
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In an interview on KBC, Harsama Kello, the Permanent Secretary in the State Department for Crop Development, described the shipment as a “big win” for Kenya because many of its farmers have begun producing the fruit because of the lucrative business opportunity they present.
Kenya has been steadily emerging as a global player in avocado supply, earning recognition from the UN FAO as one of the top 15 leading avocado exporting nations.
In this ranking, Kenya stands top in Africa with production averaging 417,000 and at an impressive 6th position globally.
Within the African continent, countries like Ethiopia, South Africa, Malawi, Morocco, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, and Madagascar have also established themselves as significant players in avocado production, according to the UN FAO.
Global demand for avocados has exhibited consistent growth. The Observatory of Economic Complexity, a tool for visualizing international trade data, reported a notable 15.3% increase in the export value of fresh or dried avocados, rising from US$6.71 billion in 2020 to US$7.73 billion in 2021.
Asian countries, led by China, have emerged as prominent markets, prompting African producers, notably Kenya and South Africa, to actively engage in these burgeoning markets, with South Africa, once Africa’s largest exporter, signing an export agreement with China on August 23.
Over the past five years, Kenya has effectively doubled its avocado production, beginning this surge in 2016. In 2020 it overtook South Africa to become the continent’s largest exporter.
With the product contributing an average of over US$100 million (equivalent to Sh15 billion) annually to export earnings, Kenya is well-positioned for a continued rise in export values, fuelled by its successes in new markets.
The European Union, with a focus on nations like the Netherlands, France, Spain, the UK, and Germany, remains a key destination for Kenyan avocados. Additionally, Kenya has successfully expanded its avocado exports to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.
Kenya first made a breakthrough in exporting avocados to China, almost exactly a year before South Africa signed an agreement in August 2022. Despite intense competition from global producers, the Chinese market has proven highly lucrative for Kenya, with exports to Beijing reaching an impressive US$64 million in the three months from May 2023.
This success can be attributed, in part, to an increase in licensed exporters to China, which rose from 25 in 2022 to 78.
Reports also indicate that other Asian markets, including Malaysia, are expressing keen interest in procuring Kenyan avocados. A Malaysian delegation conducted a pest risk analysis in Kenya last year, according to Kenya’s Business Daily.
Even as Kenya actively seeks international markets, it continues to enhance efforts that will bolster local production and sustain these new markets. The Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems aim to provide 100,000 avocado seedlings to farmers in western Kenya by November 2023.
Trends in other African markets are equally promising, further reinforcing the promising future avocados hold for the continent’s economy.
Morocco, for instance, is expecting an all-time high yield this year, with preliminary assessments showing the improvement could hit 60000 metric tons, a 20% increment from 2022. This is according to Abdellah El Yamlahi, president of the Moroccan Avocado Association.
In an interview with FreshPlaza, a fresh produce news platform, El Yamlahi attributed the projected growth to, among other things, an increase in cultivation land by at least 15%.
Similar strides are gaining ground in South Africa, which has most recently been allowed access to the Chinese market, as revealed by Derek Donkin from the South African Avocado Growers Association (SAAGA), in an interview on FreshPlaza.
South Africa’s production in 2022 grew by 157%, with this year’s export volumes from the first season expected to be 80,000 tons, up 23% from last year.
According to East Fruit, an information and analytics platform specializing in horticulture, global avocado production is projected to soar to 12 million metric tons by 2030, tripling the figures from 2010. Of this volume, up to 3.9 million metric tons are anticipated to be exported, surpassing the exports of pineapples and mangoes.
The “Agricultural Outlook 2021–2030,” jointly published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), forecasts that avocados are poised to become the most traded fruit by 2030.
Kenya is positioning itself to be part of that growth, aiming to increase the area under avocados from the current 26,000 hectares to more than 50,000 hectares by 2030.