Kakuzi Begins Chinese Avocado Exports

The field harvesting that kicked off early today is part of the firm's systems trial following the confirmation by government regulatory agencies that China has now provided the greenlight for fresh avocado exports to the market.

Listed agribusiness firm Kakuzi PLC has commenced the field harvesting and pre-shipment preparation for an inaugural Hass variety avocado consignment to be shipped out to China this weekend.

The field harvesting that kicked off early today is part of the firm’s systems trial following the confirmation by government regulatory agencies that China has now provided the greenlight for fresh avocado exports to the market.

While welcoming the Chinese approval news, Kakuzi has kicked off the shipping management process as it seeks to explore and unlock the export opportunity of locally grown fresh avocados for their ever increasing consumer demand for this superfood.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) early this week confirmed that the Chinese National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) had approved fifteen (15) orchards, nine (9) packhouses and one (1) fumigation facility, including Kakuzi’s orchards and packhouses to export fresh avocado to China.

Subsequently, the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) has published a list of Orchards, Packing Houses and the fumigation facility authorized to export fruit to China.

Speaking when he confirmed the field harvests and pre-shipment preparation to the Chinese market phytosanitary specifications, Kakuzi PLC Managing Director Mr Chris Flowers said the firm is planning to ship out the test run consignment this weekend once the necessary pre-shipment approvals are secured from KEPHIS.

The test run involving field harvests, post-harvest packaging and phytosanitary management per Chinese phytosanitary protocols, Mr Flowers said, will enable Kakuzi to fine-tune its internal processes in conjunction with the shipping and related agencies.

“The field harvests have started this morning, and we hope to prepare the first consignment to be shipped to China this weekend. In this trial phase, we intend to test the entire system capacity and fix any challenges between ourselves, the phytosanitary protocols facility and KEPHIS ahead of the planned larger shipments before the end of the next quarter,” Mr Flowers said.

In a recent communique to stakeholders, KEPHIS Managing Director, Prof Theophilus Mutui, said that the Chinese National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) had approved the commencement of fresh avocado fruits exports from Kenya to China following the completion of a recent audit process.

The approved farms, packhouses and fumigation facility Prof Mutui explained will commence exports of fresh avocado to China under the close supervision of KEPHIS.

“Based on the audit, GACC has approved fifteen (15) orchards, nine (9) packhouses and one (1) fumigation facility as having a good quarantine pest management and traceability system in avocado orchards and packhouses to better implement the bilateral plant quarantine requirements.” Prof Mutui said.

He added, “The approved entities commence exports of fresh avocado to China under the supervision of KEPHIS. These are the ONLY farms, packhouses and fumigation facilities authorized to export to China. However, KEPHIS is still undertaking audits for farms, packhouse and fumigation facilities interested to export fresh avocado to China to ensure compliance with the requirements for the China market. Compliant farms and facilities be submitted to GACC for approval as well.”

The export of fresh avocados to China follows the early January signing of two protocols to facilitate bilateral trade, mainly the export of avocados and aquatic products from Kenya to China. Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Peter Munya and the Chinese Ambassador H.E. Zhou Pingjian signed the protocols in Mombasa.

The agreement gives specific import requirements based on a systems approach strategy and post-harvest treatment (fumigation with methyl bromide) for managing nine quarantine pests of concern to China.

While reiterating his gratitude to public agencies for their support, Mr Flowers lauded the support and co-operation of the Government of Kenya and its regulatory agencies, particularly KEPHIS. The support, he said, has played a crucial role in diversifying Kenya’s avocado export markets beyond the current European and Middle East Markets; we believe a thriving Kenyan avocado industry will be based on even more new markets being open to our fruit going forward.  Currently, the European market takes most of our fruit, but as production volumes grow, we, in turn, must grow new markets.

While describing the Chinese market as highly discerning and quality conscious, Flowers confirmed that local avocado growers, including small-scale out-growers and exporters, are well-positioned to explore the far east market as long as they adhere to the regulations laid down by KEPHIS.

“Currently, the Chinese market is relatively small compared to the European market. We hope that by exposing the discerning Chinese consumer to high-quality fruit from Kenya, that market will outpace the current exports into Europe,” Flowers said. Adding that “the potential to grow the Chinese market demand is huge; if we maintain the highest quality standards for our exports.”

Recent data published in the Kenya Economic Survey 2021 confirm that earnings from exports of horticulture produce increased by 3.9 per cent from KSh 144.6 billion in 2019 to KSh 150.2 billion in 2020. With the introduction of new high-potential markets such as China, the value of horticultural exports is expected to grow, occasioning a positive economic ripple effect.