Avocado Lobby Group deregistered, accused of misconduct

The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), has derigestered the Avocado Society of Kenya (ASOK) from the horticulture industry, accusing it of violating regulations.

AFA has accused the Society’s Chief Executive Officer Earnest Muthomi of posting unverified information about Kenyan avocado exports, not using the right communication channels and verbal attacks against individuals and regulatory institutions among others.

In a letter to the Chairman, ASOK, AFA Acting Director Christine Chesaro noted that the conduct of ASOK and its leadership is counter-productive to the growth and development of the entire horticulture industry and has a negative impact on Kenya’s trade ties with other countries, especially on export of horticultural commodities.

AFA also alleged that ASOK has been advertising the export of immature avocados to regional and international markets despite the Authority closing avocado harvesting season and export by sea in November last year.

ASOK is further alleged to have told importers that the Kenyan avocado in their markets was contraband and that they should be removed from supermarkets.

The Authority thus blames ASOK for failing to use the right communication channels as well as spreading information which might damage the reputation of the exporting industries.

“This can lead to the loss of the growing export market in the Middle East, which the country has invested a lot of time and resources to develop,” the letter reads.

On December 18, 2023, the Directorate wrote a letter to caution Muthomi, asking him to desist from the accused actions.

“ASOK has continued with the same actions without formally providing evidence of its allegations,” the letter says.

The derigistration comes days after AFA and Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) confiscated 32 tonnes of avocado which were in the process of being illegally exported for the Tanzanian market.

According to AFA, following the interception of trucks transporting immature avocado out of the country through the Namanga Border Point, the CEO, ASOK, has been camping at Namanga since Friday, January 12, 2024 in a bid to interfere with ongoing investigations around the illegal exportation of the avocado fruits to Tanzania.

“In view of the aforementioned, the Authority pursuant to the Crops {Horticultural Crops) Regulations 2020, para. 13, sub-section (1, 2) and (3) is hereby officially deregistering ASOK and ceases to recognize it as an Industry Association w. e. f 15th day of January 2024,” the letter reads.

The Directorate closed the Avocado harvesting season and export by sea for the 2023/2024 fiscal year with effect from November 3, 2023 in line with its mandate to ensure that quality produce is marketed locally and internationally.

This includes ensuring that mature Avocado is harvested and exported, in a bid to sustain and grow our international markets and minimize interruption of the crop cycle occasioned by harvesting of immature Avocado.

AFA has directed that new applicants and those wishing to renew their dealership licenses upon expiry, will be required to demonstrate membership to alternative Industry Associations. It adds.

Kenya is the number one exporter of avocados in Africa and number six in the world contributing to a foreign currency earning of over Sh19 billion annually.

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