The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) has stepped up field audits and facility inspections for more than ten avocado growers and exporters planning to explore the Chinese market.
In a strategic trade facilitation effort, KEPHIS has completed the required phytosanitary assessments and the trade facilitation undertaking by KEPHIS is expected to unlock the export opportunity of locally grown fresh avocados valued at more than US$1million annually.
According to KEPHIS, Managing Director, Prof Theophilus Mutui the Regulatory agency, is working flat out to ensure that all eligible avocado growers and packhouses that meet the stringent phytosanitary standards are accorded an opportunity to enjoy the Chinese market prospects.
Speaking at an official visit of Kakuzi Plc Orchards and Packhouse in Murang’a County, KEPHIS General Manager, in charge of Phytosanitary Services, Dr Isaac Macharia, said the national plant health regulatory agency is actively playing its part to support the export of fresh fruits to China once the local HASS Avocado harvest season opens next month.
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.
According to Dr Macharia, KEPHIS has initiated registration and inspection where several avocado growers have been audited, including listed agro-business firm Kakuzi Plc, their orchards and packhouses.
“The next step for us now is to share the list with our counterparts in China for final registration,” Dr Macharia said. He added, “At KEPHIS, we are committed to facilitating trade by enforcing world-class phytosanitary and related plant health regulatory standards.”
As part of its mandate, KEPHIS will also undertake stringent pre-shipment inspections for all containers before they are exported to ensure compliance with the Chinese plant health standards. The standards include the mandatory fumigation with methyl bromide and temperature control of all shipments departing Kenya for China.
On his part, Kakuzi PLC Managing Director Mr Chris Flowers lauded the support and co-operation of the Government of Kenya and its regulatory agencies, including KEPHIS. The support, he said, will play a crucial role in diversifying Kenya’s avocado export markets beyond the current European and Middle East 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.
“Today, the growing 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.