AgricultureGreen Gold.

Selina LiyengwaOctober 16, 20211158 min
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Avocados are often referred to as alligator pears or the butter fruit. The fruits have gained popularity in recent years as they have extensive uses. They not only have high nutritional value in terms of low sugar content, but they also have high fibre content.

With an increased concentration on healthy lifestyles and healthy living in order to prevent diseases, avocados have been embraced by the majority of the population in developed economies as they contain vitamins, healthy fats and minerals which help prevent diseases such as cancer, arthritis, inflammation and depression. Truly you are what you eat. Due to the high global demand, avocados have become a fruitful export product. In the USA, its consumption per capita increased by 406% between 1990 and 2017.

The so-called green gold is also swiftly gaining popularity in Africa. According to The Guardian newspaper in Nigeria, (Obasanjo prescribes replacement for oil as revenue sourceNigeria — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News) former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo referred to avocados as “the new oil of Nigeria” during a meeting with members of the Avocado Society of Nigeria (ASN). The politician is the largest stakeholder in the society and owns 20 hectares of Hass avocado farming land himself. The Hass avocado variety is most commonly used for exports. Both Nigeria and Uganda aim to increase their avocado production with the aim of becoming top exporters. Kenya is already among the global top 10.

Kenya is globally ranked 8th in avocado production. According to an article published on Business Daily, (Avocado exports earn Kenya Sh4.6bn in three months – Business Daily (businessdailyafrica.com))in the first 3 months of 2020, 26,481 tonnes of avocados were exported. This was an increase from the previous year’s exports within the first three months which was 15,101 tonnes of avocados.

The Directorate of Horticulture permitted the resumption of export of the popular Fuerte avocado variety on the 15th of February followed by Hass on March 8th after close to a four-month ban. The ban had been enforced to curb premature harvesting done by cartels to profit from global demand.

According to data from the Horticulture Directorate, the value of Kenya’s avocado exports rose by 93% to Kshs. 4.26 billion between January 2021 and March 2021 compared to a similar period in 2020.

Kenya is eyeing bigger exports of avocado to Egypt amid rising demand for the fruit. Apart from Egypt, demand is also high in Russia, and the Middle East. Currently, Kenya exports the majority of its avocados to Europe and the Middle East. Europe is specifically one of Kenya’s major markets for avocados in terms of returns. Some of the avocados whose requests are high include Fuerte and Hass variety, which are known for their richer tastes and nutritional values. As much as the exports are performing well, only a few batches are exported to China because Kenya is yet to meet the conditions set by Beijing to warrant the export of avocados in large quantities.

The good performance, good returns from the sale of the fruit and rise in global demand has attracted more and more Kenyans into farming it. Moreover, avocados greatly contribute to the horticulture sector as nearly half of the total income in the sector comes from fruits.

Despite its increased popularity and demand, the fruit has also made a few negative headlines globally. Farming avocado trees requires a huge supply of water. As such, water shortages and the destruction of biodiversity have been linked to the production of avocados. Large-scale commercial avocado farming in Latin America has caused soil degradation in the region.

These environmental issues have cast a dark shadow over the commercial farming of avocados in Latin America’s top exporting countries such as Mexico and Chile. According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 2,000 litres of water or 10 full bathtubs, to grow just one kilogram of avocados. As such, planting the fruit has been linked to water shortages in Chile which has consequently affected water availability for use for human consumption. Large industrial production also implies the use of a lot of chemicals that are not environmentally friendly.

However, according to farmers and scientists, in Africa avocado farming has much brighter prospects. With small-scale farming of the crop and beneficial rain patterns, the production of avocados in Africa is expected to be less harmful than production in the American continent.  In Kenya, most avocado farmers only own about 2 hectares of land. In small scale settings, the crop can also be grown together with other subsistence crops such as maize and beans to counter the adverse effects of the crop on the environment while also replenishing the soil.

Selina Liyengwa

Content writer at Cue Africa. Email: selinakanguha9@gmail.com LinkedIn: Selina Liyengwa.

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