The production of quality avocados has taken good root in sub-Sahara Africa, with Kenya taking the reins as one of the leading producers.
In Kenya, agri-business firm Kakuzi Plc is the leading producer of quality avocado fruits. Kakuzi, which is also listed in the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), engages in the cultivation, processing and marketing of avocados, blueberries, macadamia, tea, livestock and commercial forestry products.
The company continuously strives to build a sustainable agricultural portfolio that can mitigate weather risks. Since 1996, Kakuzi has been developing avocado orchards processed and packaged at its globally standards benchmarked packing house. Currently, Kakuzi has over 900 hectares of avocado orchards with scheduled expansion in the coming years.
Kakuzi’s location (Makuyu, Murang’a County) provides a temperate climate that is perfectly suited to the production of avocado. Kakuzi guarantees full control over the entire value chain, ensuring complete traceability and a high-quality product from seedling to fork.
The firm produces, packs and exports a variety of green and black skin cultivars. “All of our avocado production is GlobalG.A.P., GRASP and SMETA certified while the Avocado Packhouse is FSSC 22000 certified,” says Jonathan Kipruto, the Assistant General Manager in charge of horticulture operations at Kakuzi.
From a farm operations perspective, Kakuzi is actively utilising field management practices through effective canopy management strategies on the mature avocado crop; that help to optimise production and mitigate the natural ON and OFF year phenomenon challenges as much as possible.
In addition, Kakuzi currently has a new immature avocado development area that is thriving, with production expected in a year or so. Land preparation for a new Avocado crop is also underway in a crop area previously under pineapple production.
As part of its community development and empowerment programme, Kakuzi maintains an avocado smallholder programme. With more than 3,000 members, the Smallholder programme reaches the immediate neighbouring community and, further afield to farmers in other parts of Kenya. The programme ensures continued education for the community and farmers on the latest avocado production technologies and best management practices, including fruit maturity testing. Access to this information provides support to assist in increasing farmers yields and, in turn, driving wealth to the smallholders.
Currently, Kakuzi mainly exports Hass and Pinkerton Avocado varieties, and now, this ratio stands at 15% green skin and 85% Hass. A significant percentage of the export-grade Hass and Pinkerton is exported to the European market. However, there are concerted efforts by the Kenyan Government to gain access to more local and global markets for the growing volumes of quality Kenyan fruit.