Farmers want Kenya-China avocado trade deal reviewed

A farmer on her avocado farm. Farmers in Kiambu have complained of stringent conditions the Chinese government has imposed before they can export their crop. [File, Standard]

Local farmers now want a recent deal signed between Kenya and Chinese government for the importation of hass avocados reviewed.

The farmers have faulted the stringent entry rules imposed by the Chinese government before Kenyan produce can access the foreign market.

They said the deal is not in favour of Kenya adding that local small-scale avocado farmers are likely to miss out.

Under the deal, farmers will be required to install machines and coolers for peeling and freezing the fruit before it is exported.

China also wants Kenyan farmers and traders to freeze the fruits to negative 30 degrees Celsius after peeling off the skin and freeze further to negative 18 degrees Celsius while in transit.

John Karanja, an avocado farmer in Githunguri, said the stringent measures by the Chinese government would keep away many potential farmers from directly exporting the produce.

“We wonder why they have put such stringent measures that many of us cannot be able to meet. When the deal was signed, we were very optimistic that we would finally get ample market for our produce. It seems we were wrong,” said Mr Karanja.

Martin Mbugua, another avocado farmer in Lari, called for government intervention to relax the requirements by the Chinese authorities.

He said failure to review the rules will see the trade deal collapse adding not many small-scale avocado farmers will be able to meet them.

“It is our belief President Uhuru Kenyatta meant well when he signed the deal. We are therefore, as farmers, appealing to him to intervene so that the stringent rules can be relaxed,” said Mr Mbugua.

Another farmer, Agnes Wanjiku, said the deal only favours large-scale avocado farmers who can afford to meet the requirements.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), which will oversee the export of avocados, admitted the conditions set by China could end up limiting small-scale farmers in the country from accessing the market.

“China will suspend the exports if we do not comply with the rules. Continuous con-compliance will definitely lead to a total ban,” said Kephis Managing Director Esther Kimani.

She, however, added farmers are being encouraged to familiarise themselves with the new export measures and apply for permits from Kephis so as to export avocados to China

Thika MP Patrick Wainaina also faulted the stringent entry rules saying they would frustrate the trade deal.

The deal to pave way for the exportation of hass avocados to China was signed in China between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on April 25.

It is estimated that when the agreement is fully implemented, the Chinese market will take in more than 40 per cent of Kenya’s avocado produce, making it one of the largest importers of the fruit. Other famous destinations of Kenyan avocado include Europe and the US.

But the signing of the protocol on sanitary requirements for the export of frozen avocado is likely to be a major hurdle for Kenyan farmers.