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Avocado Increasing Product Base and Sustaining Market Possibility in Africa

Africa Avocado Varieties are some of the finest in the world as the continent vaunts some of the finest varieties. A rotten one has brown or black spots throughout the flesh. Avocados have an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase under their skin. Once it is cut, the enzyme comes into contact with oxygen in the air, turning the surface of the flesh brown. Hass avocado is perhaps one of the most famous avocado types and considered by many to be the best. The flavour is quite intense and the flesh is very creamy, perfect for guacamole.

The fortune of the Green Gold started, when the Aztecs discovered the avocado in 500 BC, they named it āhuacatl meaning “testicle.” Avocados are native to Mexico and Central America but are now grown in many different regions across the globe. It is possible for an avocado tree to produce 200 to 300 fruits per tree once it is about 5-7 years of age. The avocado tree, however, alternates bearing. This means that the tree may produce a large crop one year, and then produce a small crop the following year. In 2019, Mexico harvested some 2.3 million tons of avocados, making the country top producer of avocados worldwide.

University of California ANR scientist, Mary Lu Arpaia, inspecting locally produced avocados being sold in a road side stall. (Photo: Mark Hoddle)

Global avocado imports grew by 21% between 2012 and 2016. In 2019, avocado exports by country totaled US$ 6.5 billion and the Global Avocado Market was valued at $9.14 billion in 2020. Avocado market is dominated by Spanish speaking countries, with Mexico is raking $2.4 billion, the Netherlands ($ 733.8 billion), Peru ($ 722.8m) in third, Spain ($ 346 m), Chile ($ 323.2 m), the USA ($ 179 m) as before Kenya seals off the top seven having got $ 118 million (Sh11.8 billion). In 2019, North American countries generated the strongest international sales for avocados with shipments valued at $2.9 billion or 45.3% of the worldwide total. In second place were European exporters at 26.6%, while 20.8% of globally shipped avocados originated from Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Smaller percentages came from Africa (4.5%), Asia (1.6%) and Oceania (1.3%) most New Zealand and Australia. Even once grown, pruned, and picked, avocados need costly distribution methods in order to be delivered fresh and ripe to far-flung corners of the world.

Top Ten Avocado Producing Countries in Africa (2017)

Avocado has become a highly demanded fruit on the international market and the European market is experiencing an impressive development. In 2020, the Netherlands, avocado consumption rose exponentially, from 35% to 40%. A survey undertaken in 2018 puts Colombia, Morocco, Kenya and Germany as the fastest growing exporters of the fruit. Kenya is also placed seventh in the list of the leading exporters of avocado in 2018. The avocado export market determines the economy of the African avocado producer. During 2018-2019 there was not enough avocado production to meet the demand. Rwanda controls 20 percent of the total Avocado produced in Africa as it takes the second position while South Africa comes in third with 14 percent. Production areas were concentrated in Central and South America, but as consumption is growing everywhere, it has caused a larger number of countries to invest heavily in avocado production. The single most important market is the European Union, of which France is the leading country among those that buy Kenya avocados, South Africa and the rest of the country.

Avocado is a highly nutritious and universal fruit that thrives in both temperate and sub-tropical zones in the world. Kenya is the top avocado producing country in Africa, accounting for 28 percent of the total production. The growth was attributed to increased accessibility to markets which in turn helped the country to overtake South Africa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Jackson Mwangi, a Kenyan smallholder avocado farmer in his avocado farm. Photo: CNN

Kenya

Avocados exports by country totaled US$6 billion in 2017. That dollar value reflects a 141.2 percent increase for all avocados shippers over the five-year period starting in 2013. Globally, the value of exported avocados appreciated over a third (34.2 percent) from 2016 to 2017. According to Trade statistics from the International Trade Centre (ITC), Kenya became the 8th largest Avocado exporter in the world in 2017, exporting a record volume of 51, 507 tons to the world. Kenyas exports of avocados hit 72,000 tons in 2020, up from 59,000 tons recorded in the previous year, according to government record.

The East African country  exported 26,481 tonnes of the fruit between January and March this year compared to 15,101 tonnes in 2020. Last year, Kenya and China signed a trade pact that gave it the nod to export avocado to the Asian country. In 2021, Kenyas avocado exports are fetching the country Sh14 billion, a jumped 15 percent to 68,000 metric tonnes over the 12 months to October 2020.

Kenyan avocados on display. Photo: Sergei FadeichevTASS, Getty Images.

Tanzania

Data revealed by Tanzanias private sector horticultural apex body shows that Avocado has become the country’s latest green gold, generating revenue of at least $12 million (Sh27.6 billion) annually, up from zero five years ago. The Tanzania Horticultural Association (Taha), and the Avocado Catalogue 2020 report, show that avocado exports jumped from 1,877 tonnes in 2014 to 9,000 tonnes in 2019. According to Tanzania Investment Centre and the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub study in 2019, there is a huge avocado’s potential to fill up the edible oils’ gap in Tanzania, which stands at U. S. $294 million. Investing in the fruit for edible oil production can go a long way to slash the 320,000 tonnes of annual cooking oil import. Data from China Customs indicates that Chinas avocado imports are valued at $105 million per annum, presenting a huge potential market for Tanzanian growers. More than 10,000 farmers in the country are involved in avocado production, increasing its export by 380 percent in a span of five years, based on Tanzania Horticultural Association (Taha), and the Avocado Catalogue 2020 report.

The avocados being packaged up for exporting in the Africado pack house (Africado)

South Africa

One of Africa’s top avocado producers, South Africa was the worlds sixth-biggest exporter of avocados in 2019 according to UN trade figures. Experts say the South African avocado sector harvested approximately 125,000 tons of avocados per annum over the last five years. The area under commercial avocado orchards stands around 14,700 hectares, with new plantings of about 900 hectares added per annum. The avocado sector contributes to at least 11,500 jobs on farms and pack houses. South Africa expects an uptick in avocado exports this season of 66,000 tons compared to 60,000 tons in the previous season. The South African Subtropical Growers Association indicates that thousands of tonnes of the avocados have been stolen over the past five years. While the average annual losses in South Africa are around USD1.6 million.

A worker picks avocados from a tree in Tzaneen. Faced with a growing frequency of avocado raids, farmers in South Africa have invested heavily in fencing and private security. Photo: AFP

Rwanda

Locally in Rwanda it is known as Avoka, the most grown fruit in Rwanda with total production margin of 141, 130 metric tons per year stands, with the country’s mild climate makes Avocado growing perfect growing environment. Avocado is grown in all the regions of the country with the Southern Province leading the production chain, followed by Western, Eastern, Northern and the least are Kigali City. The most common varieties in East African country are Haas, Nabal, Puebla, Reed, Simmonds, Pinkerton, Bacon, Fuerte and Ettinger. Rwandan citizens are now developing different sustainable products from avocados.

Uganda

In Uganda, Avocado has witnessed a growing market for several years. There is an ongoing national campaign for increased avocado in the East African country. In Uganda, avocados are known as Ova, and the fruit trees are widely found across the country, grown by small farms and home gardeners. The plant/tree takes two to three years to bear fruits depending on the time taken in the seedling nursery in Uganda. The tree normally takes 6-8 years to attain maximum production. Local growers are currently focusing their efforts to cultivate varieties such as Semil, Reed, Fuerte, Bacon, and Hass. With Hass is the most economically profitable and important cultivar as it is a top variety within European markets. Meanwhile, the Hass avocado does well in medium sandy soils and in warm climates. The potential in Ugandan avocado export markets is huge as they are currently already importing largely.

PHOTO: A worker tends to the nursery bed that feeds the main garden. Inset is the fruit. SOURCE: Daily Monitor

Cameroon

In Cameroon, planting and harvesting of Avocado is done by the local population, mainly the poor. The cultivation serves as a source of income which enable them to send their children to school since education is now on an increase in the country. Nowadays, Avocado production in Cameroon is becoming more and more a business as the demand keeps on increasing. More than 70.000 tons of avocado are produced yearly in Cameroon, according to FAO; and an all time low of 12,000 tonnes in 1961.

Avocado production, which should considerably increase in the years to come, with the ongoing introduction to the orchard of grafted seedlings with higher yields, is usually sold in the big cities of the country Douala and Yaoundé. Nearly 80% of the population live on agriculture in the Bafoussam region of northern Cameroon, the effects of climate change and harmful agricultural practices, such as burning, deforestation, deplete the soil, destroy the local ecosystems and inadequate storage facilities resulting reduced output.

In Mbouda, the capital of the Bamboutos department is the principal avocado production basin in Cameroon, with about 120,000 metric tons every year, according to the statistics of the ministry of agriculture. At the moment in Cameroon, avocado is essentially used for food consumption needs. However, experts have found virtues for the avocado in the manufacture of hair treatment products, even skin treatment products. So many opportunities which could be facilitated by the construction of the avocado oil extraction unit announced in the city of Mbouda. As a result of the perishable nature of Avocado, almost 30% of the fruit production is sometimes lost after the harvest in Bamboutos.

However, the Cameroonian government has established a processing unit, that would offer producers a new outlet located not far from the Avocado farms. In the same way, the government of Cameroon, recently through its Agricultural Growth Poles (Agropoles) initiative to attract investors into the sector will be in the nearest future setup an avocado oil extraction plant in Mbouda west region of Cameroon. There by adding value to avocado production and reducing waste. Also, the government of Cameroon is setting up 396 hectares of avocado plantations in Foumbot west region. Out of the 396 hectares to be planted, 200 hectares have already been planted. The problems of farm to market roads, oil percentage in local avocados still to be analysed and farmers are still to determine price per kilogram of avocado are the main challenges still faced by farmers in this subsector.

The Rise of Kenya’s Avocado Industry

Moreover, Avocado valued seedlings are not readily available to the farmer in most African markets, the local growers do not have sufficient understanding of the market as therefore their produce is not market motivated. Also, there is no large export market for local avocados and as a result of the domestic market for the local variety appears to be in balance regarding supply and demand and the local farmers lack the competence to add value to their output.

Facilitating the uptake of Agroforestry knowledge and practice by relevant authorities is highly important via policy and institutional context within Agroforestry activities. In particular, governments can facilitate the modification of obsolete texts in terms of forestry and environmental legislation, improve tree crop value chains, provide technical assistance for the diversification of farming practices, and stronger coordination and cross-sectoral integration between agriculture, environmental, rural development, and industrial initiatives. While the private sectors should include smallholder farmers in the investment ventures that contributed its part to sustainable Avocado production in Africa.

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