Ministry intervention saves avocado exporters Sh375m

Avocado fruits harvested and ready for export. [File, Standard]

A meeting between fresh produce exporters, and Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has saved the horticulture industry about Sh375 million in losses.

This is after their contracted exporter Maersk Shipping Company had twice left behind 77 containers of avocados that were destined for the European Union and Middle East markets.

According to Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) of Kenya chief executive officer Okisegere Ojepat, two weeks ago, 148 containers were booked by Maersk but 29 were left from export and 48 containers were left after 196 containers were booked in the following week.

"We are facing a big challenge of clearance. We stand to lose Sh375 million because a container costs an average of Sh4.5 million per container to be filed with produce and multiply that by 77 containers totals to Sh375 million," said Ojepat in an interview last week on Friday.

However, on Thursday, the meeting that took place saw the shipping line export all containers that had been left behind.

According to Ojepat, the shipping line had complained of reduced cut-off time by KPA, thus affecting its ability to meet the timeline to bring the produce to the Mombasa port.

Shelf life

Ojepat said they had earlier on called KPA and it denied reducing the cut-off time. KPA said it even gave the shipping company more time till 11pm instead of the normal 3pm.

He had said the continued stay of containers had already reduced the shelf-life of the avocados when they arrive at the destination, and this will ruin their industry and the country's reputation and deny the country revenue in terms of dollars.

Kenya is ranked as the seventh-largest producer of avocado in the world. In 2020, the country surpassed South Africa and other African nations in avocado exports.

In three months to October last year, Kenya’s exports of avocado to China hit Sh7 billion. The horticultural industry, Ojepat said, brings into the country an average of Sh150 billion annually, and expressed fears that that figure would not be achieved this year.

‘‘We are happy that through the intervention of FPC, the avocado shipment challenges have been sorted out and all containers have been shipped out of the port including the ones that had been left behind in the last two weeks. This was done through a meeting with Cabinet Secretary for Industry, Trade and Investment,” said Ojepat.

He said this was followed by a multi-agency meeting in Mombasa between the CS and his Roads, Transport counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen, Kenya Railways and KPA which Kuria co-chaired.

Among the resolutions were for KPA to operate 24 hours, port users to be expanded to include exporters and ministry officials, verification of perishable goods by agencies to be done at the point of loading and permits be granted in the single window system.

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