Murang’a avocado bill to lock out cartels in sector

Margeret Aloo, an avocado farmer, shows the almost mature avocados in her farm. One tree of avocado produces between 500-1,000 fruits annually. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Murang’a County Government has formulated a bill that would regulate avocado sector and protect farmers from exploitation by cartels.

The County Avocado Production and Marketing Bill 2020, will establish a directorate to regulate the sector, through registration and licensing of the players within the value chain.

Farmers intending to cut down their avocado trees, must make an application to the county government and those transporting the produce must be licensed.

Protect farmers

Last month, Governor Mwangi wa Iria hinted his administration was formulating a bill that will streamline the avocado sector and protect farmers from cartels.

Further, the county government will have powers to impose a total ban on harvesting to protect immature avocado fruits.

Murang’a is the first county to formulate the bill to streamline the sector, months after Kenya declared to it had entered into a pact with China.

In the draft bill culprits who will flout the regulations, will pay a fine of Sh2 million, or serve a jail term not exceeding two years.

Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairman Charles Kahoro said members will deliberate on the bill.

“Murang’a being a leading producer of avocado has taken the lead to formulate regulations to guard farmers from exploitation,” said Kahoro. Sub-counties of Kandara and Gatanga lead in avocado production, with an investor said to be planning to set up a processing plant in Ng’araria ward.

The bill aims to establish a surveillance unit that will ensure the policies are followed to the letter. Those who will serve in the surveillance unit, should not be connected with production of avocado, export, sale or distribution in Murang’a county.

All premises for storage and processing of avocado produce shall be inspected to ensure they comply with public health Act, national, regional and international food safety and quality standards.

According to the bill, contracts entered by farmers and dealers, to promote quality for produce and by products must be vetted by the county.

The law further proposes that avocado nursery operators are required to buy seedlings from dealers approved by the county.

Another proposal is that the county government will construct collection centres where licensed buyers will collect the fruits onward to the processing plants. Avocados found to contain pests or affected by diseases, will be rejected at the centres and escorted back to the farms of origin.

Murang’a County government has issued 1.2 million avocado seedlings to growers, with projection to increase earning to farmers from Sh5 billion to Sh20 billion in the next four years.

Last year, Kakuzi PLC released Sh88 million bonus payment to farmers to deliver their produce to their processing plant located at Makuyu.