When Kenya secured an avocado market in China, many anticipated reaping big from the fruit that’s available in abundance. But then they heard they had to be able to freeze the fruit to -30 degrees Celsius after peeling off the skin, and then freeze it further to -18 degrees Celsius while in transit. Taking advantage of the 1.3-billion-strong Chinese market is clearly about more than just picking avocados and sending them out.
What you need:
Grafted avocado trees take at least three years to bear fruit, and then there are phytosanitary conditions to meet that are imposed by the importing market to meet unique preferences. Exporters also need to deal with taxes, permits and a host of bureaucratic red tape.
This means it’s nearly impossible for individual farmers to get into the export market. This is where aggregators come in. Small-scale farmers can set up co-operatives or sell fruit to aggregators who then focus on installing machines and coolers for peeling and freezing the avocado ahead of export.
2. Permits and approvals
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) indicates that the minimum cost for all the procedures, as well as obtaining permits is Sh39,553 and will take an average of 27 to 93 days to complete. Most of these costs, however, are first-time expenses, which means the costs will reduce with time.
Exporters have to obtain a Food Hygiene Licence for a Packhouse Facility from the public health office before operating an export facility. The business will then require a Packhouse Inspection Report from the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) - Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD).
AFA will need to inspect the farm through the horticulture directorate. Only then will co-operatives or individual licensed farmers be able to sell their avocados directly to Chinese buyers.
After clearing with the agriculture authority, the exporter will then need approvals from Kephis, which will handle the exporter registration process. First time exporters will also need to register for training on how to use the Kenya TradeNet System with the Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade).
3. Quality certification
Export trade requires strict adherence to rules of origin, especially under these sorts of arrangements negotiated by Kenya so that other countries don’t abuse the concessions. The exporter will be required to obtain a Certificate of Origin, as well as an Export Clearance from the Horticultural Crops Directorate. Kephis will also need to issue a Phytosanitary Certificate that ascertains the produce meets required quality standards.
An Export Health Certificate from the Port Health Services will be needed to ensure the product is free of diseases, and has been duly tested. Lastly, the exporter will need a clearance of consignment from the Kenya Revenue Authority for tax purposes.
While the process might appear tedious, it is meant to standardise the product that leaves the country and ensure continued access to the Chinese markets. Failure to comply risks China suspending the exports, with continuous non-compliance leading to a total ban.
Kenya has 7,500 hectares under avocado cultivation and is just recovering from a 10-year ban from the South African market, the leading avocado producer, over fruit flies.
Kenyan traders can easily access further information on how to export avocados from the Information for Trade in Kenya portal, https://InfoTradeKenya.go.ke, which has been implemented by KenTrade. The portal provides a step-by-step guide on the procedures and requirements on the export of various commodities. The portal also links the relevant Government regulatory agencies to traders online.