AFA issues new rules for avocado harvesting season

Harvested avocados at KTL farm in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

It is a sigh of relief for farmers after the Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) signalled the start of avocado harvesting season scheduled for March 1.

In the directives, the regulator outlaws the use of open pick-ups, Probox, and trucks in the transportation of the commodity and has directed the use of plastic crates.

These are regulations designed to ensure export of the quality fruits in the international market ending the craze of harvesting immature avocados.

Between November 3, 2023, and January 31, the Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) and the Avocado Society of Kenya have been pursuing rogue agents dealing with immature fruits, with some merchants arrested at the Namanga border point by Tanzania customs officers.

The harvest window was closed on November 3, as the authority warned the dealers against contravening the regulation, as some mixed mangoes with avocados to sustain their export market.

In a circular dated February 14, by the Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) Acting Director Christine Chesaro, notified the exporters that the export produce would be subject to inspection by the authority three days before the shipment.

“The directorate has now established improvement in the maturity of the avocado fruits in major production zones and orders the harvesting to start on March 1,” read part of the notice to the players in the sector.

The authority demands the exporters submit the list of their licensed marketing agents with valid registration permits before February 26.

The association last year had called on the government to consider their plight in the transportation of the commodity and allow them more time to comply.

The Avocado Aggregators’ Association led by their National Chairman Joseph Wanjohi said they had approached the regulator seeking a two-year extension to allow the members to be fully compliant.

“All of the members are registered with HCD but seeking they being exempted from use of crates and closed vehicles  for some time,” said Wanjohi

In other directives to enhance the safety and quality of the commodity, the dealers found transporting the commodity without crates and on open pick up/ trucks contrary to the HCD regulations will be penalized.

“The exporters are demanded to strictly transact with licensed marketing agents,” read part of the notice also copied to the shipping agent, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service among others.

The circular copied to various bodies and the county governments outlines that the authority conducted a survey of the major avocado-producing areas between January 7 and January 12, to ascertain the maturity and volumes of the commodity.

During the closure period, Chesaro clashed with the Avocado Society of Kenya CEO Enerst Muthomi after the rogue merchants were nabbed at the Namanga border point.

Police in Kandara a week ago arrested two marketing agents who were transporting tonnes of fruits despite the ban imposed by the regulator.

A month ago, villagers in Kandara roughed up youths who were hired to harvest immature fruits.

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