Avocados in Kenya: What’s holding back smallholder farmers
SEE ALSO: Forester digs in against dam planThese include the costs of harvesting, transport and having liquidity. There are also farmers’ organisation transaction costs, such as membership fees and the opportunity costs of time when attending meetings.
The barriers to entrySmallholder avocado farmers in Kenya face several big barriers to participating in export markets. Capital and liquidity constraint: They often do not have enough capital to meet the high costs of participation in export markets. For instance being able to buy or grow higher quality avocados. In most cases, contract farmers need to harvest the produce themselves and transport it to collection sheds or company premises. Their payment then usually arrives after a delay of one to two weeks. Limited access to production technologies and institutional support: For instance, credit and training. This means smallholder avocado farmers are left out of important parts of the value chain.
SEE ALSO: Prelate thanks Pope for new jobPoor infrastructure: In rural areas a lack of good roads makes it difficult and costly to bring produce to markets in far-off areas. We found that participating in export markets raises smallholder farmers’ incomes by nearly 39 per cent This is mostly on account of higher prices offered in international markets. For example, a dozen Haas avocados, distinguished by their dark green and brown skin and smaller than average avocado stone, sell for Sh3.5 ($0.03) in domestic markets. But they fetch nearly double, Sh6 ($0.06), in global export markets. Smallholder farmers’ participation in export markets also increased employment opportunities within the community. International markets demanded higher quality avocados which required additional labour. Our study found that hired labour costs increase by about Sh1,300 (US$13) and smallholder farmers’ family labour inputs increase by about 15 days, if they participate in export markets.
Connecting with exportersThe Kenyan government, recognising the potential to increase exports and boost smallholder welfare, recently started encouraging more smallholder farmers to connect with exporters. But integration with export markets remains a difficult barrier for individual smallholder farmers to overcome. To make export markets more accessible for smallholders, the Kenyan government should increase seedling provision and facilitate avocado cultivation training programmes. Policies geared towards export promotion and encouraging innovative contract design would increase smallholder farmers’ yields and improve the quality of their produce. This would be critical for farmers to participate in export markets. Additionally, programmes focused on improving the quality of farmers groups, making them more organised and better connected to resources and contract firms alike, would also provide an impetus to participating in export markets over the long term. The Conversation Africa is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public
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