Avocado exports can reap big gains for Kenyan farmers - study

Friday December 20 2019

Nakuru avocados

A man carries avocados from Wakulima Market in Nakuru County on May 7, 2019. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KEVIN J KELLEY
By KEVIN J KELLEY
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New York,  

Kenyan smallholders can boost their incomes by nearly 39 percent by exporting avocados to the European market, a Washington-based research institute said in a study issued on Thursday.

A dozen avocados of the Haas variety that sell for about Ksh3.5 ($0.035) in domestic markets can fetch almost Ksh6 ($0.06) in export markets, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute and partners in the study.

But small-scale Kenyan avocado farmers are typically unable to take advantage of the higher prices paid abroad due to insufficient capital, poor infrastructure and the high costs of meeting stringent export standards, the study finds.

Currently, the researchers note, only a few small-scale avocado farmers, mostly in Murang’a County in central Kenya, are linked to export markets through contract farming.

DECLINING EXPORTS

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Despite growing international demand, avocado exports from Kenya have been declining as a share of total production of the crop.

That share now stands at 10 per cent, far less than the export rate for avocado production in competitor nations such as South Africa and Chile, the study notes.

“Providing households access to foreign markets and up-to-date information on farm technology, along with the dissemination of simple and domestically invented technologies, could achieve higher farm incomes, revenues and sales prices,” said Mulubrhan Amare, the study's lead author.

LABOURERS' PAY

In addition to raising small farmers' incomes, avocado exports bring higher pay for hired labourers, the researchers say.

Family labour inputs on avocado-exporting small farms increase by about 15 days a year, with  female workers accounting for most of that addition, the study reports.

Based on survey data from large-scale avocado farmers in Kenya, the study found that those who participated in export markets were older and better trained than farmers who did not sell to foreign markets.

Farmers who exported also had higher likelihoods of living near a well-functioning avocado farmers’ group, the study notes.

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