Avocado Bill seeks to punish rogue merchants

Avocado fruits at an orchard in Laikipia County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Murang’a County Assembly is considering a Bill that seeks to protect avocado value chain following rampant theft witnessed in Kandara.

The county is proposing to have a sticker on each fruit meant for the export market, showing where it was harvested for traceability.

In the past few months, reports indicate that farmers in Murang’a have been spending nights in the farms guarding their avocado against theft.

Stakeholders in the avocado business met at Golden Palm Hotel in Kenol to deliberate on the Bill formulated by the County Assembly's Agriculture committee to spell out stiff penalties on lawbreakers.

In a meeting chaired by Assembly Speaker Nduati Kariuki, those who attended included farmers, officials from Ministry of Interior and National Coordination, Murang’a Avocado Farmers Union representatives, exporters and processors.

The stakeholders proposed that no person shall harvest and handle immature fruits.  Those found guilty of harvesting immature avocados will be liable to a six-month prison term or a fine of Sh100,000.

Further, vehicles and motorcycles used in the transportation of the immature avocados will be detained by the State.

Also, the concerns were on registration of farmers and the players in the value chain.

Murang'a County Assembly Speaker Nduati Kariuki. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Union Chairman John Mwaniki called for the introduction of a barcode to help in the traceability of avocados, targeting to end the harvesting of the immature ones by rogue agents invading farms at night.

“There is an outcry as the farmers have been experiencing theft of their harvest whenever they were not around,” said Mwaniki.

Hw added that there was a need for the government to ensure licensing of the avocado collection centres in efforts to weed out rogue merchants.

Kariuki convened the meeting following a series of consultations with farmers' representatives after reports of increased theft of the produce.

Theft of avocado fruit has been high in Kandara.

Kariuki confirmed that there is a proposed County Avocado Bill, 2022, which is expected to undergo the Third Reading.

The Bill, Kariuki said, will protect local farmers from rampant theft of their avocado and unscrupulous dealers.