Growing Avocados in Kenya: What to Consider

You might be wondering why avocado is gaining popularity, especially in Kenya. Avocados demand is ever-increasing at a faster rate as compared to supply not only local demand but as well as well export. We shall therefore look at the varieties of avocados grown in Kenya as well the market opportunities available from a global perspective.

According to statistics, Kenya is among the top three producers in Africa and the 6th in the world. There is great encouragement of farmers by the Government to embark on avocado farming because it fetches high prices in the world market and provides opportunities like employment within the community

The Kenyan Government is making a lot of efforts to retain our reputation for good quality and sustainability of production for both domestic and global markets. The Government has contracted some firms such as Kakuzi, Oxfam, and others to buy fruits from farmers to eliminate explosive  Brokers hence yield good returns to farmers. Farmers are supposed to deliver quality fruits to Kakuzi and Oxfarm and in return buy them for profit.  Payment is made promptly after delivery. 

Varieties of Avocados in Kenya

The bright green fruit normally with a large pit and dark leathery skin is made up of the following:

  • Choquette avocados.

  •  Hass avocados.

  • Given avocados.

  • Maluma avocados.

  • Mexicola avocados

  • Reeds avocados.

  • Fuerte avocados.

Investing in avocado farming can take a long term of up to 3-5 years for the trees to come into production. Full risk of assessment and planning needs to be undertaken to maintain healthy plantations that yield top production for many years. A farmer needs to select a good variety of which bear a lot of fruits to sustain the world demand which is increasing year by year.In Kenya, we have chosen a variety of hass and Fuertes because of health benefits and durability during transportations. Avocados preferred in the Middle East, Europe, and other continents from Kenya are normally the Hass type of avocado as well as Fuertes type avocados.

Hass

Hass originated from California with a dark purple colour when ripen. The flesh is pale green and It perfect for making guar camisole (Guatemala) and for export.Hass avocados are preferred compared to others because of the high demand locally and internationally.

Fuerte

They are leathery in terms of the general outlook with average skin. The fruit peels off easily and has a flavour of hazelnut. The Fuertes avocados are grown to be exported and processed.

The following are the reasons why Hass are grown and preferred in Kenya.

  • Guarantees Greater yield.

Hass plant takes a long period to be harvested and results in greater yields which in turn gives a farmer more revenue.

  • Long shelf life.

Hass is characterized by compact skin that minimizes damage towards it especially during transportation. The larger shelf life can make the avocados last up to 3 weeks from the time of harvest making shipment and handling convenient

Health benefits.

The avocado fruit of Hass is very nutritive with high proteins and oil content. The fruit is rich in minerals such as potassium, iron calcium, boron, manganese and zinc. It also contains vitamins such as B6, C, D and E. the fruit can be eaten as fresh fruit, salads, soup, ice cream, avocado oil, perfumes and avocado paste. For hass fruit to grow well and to produce high yields for exportation, the following ecological requirements should be met.

Ecological Requirements.

The avocado fruit is bigger in cool areas that are in attitudes between 1000M to 2000M above the sea level compared to warm areas. Hass loves temperatures of 20 to 24 degrees Celsius but too extreme temperatures make avocado fruits drop prematurely Hass develops better with well-distributed rainfall of 1000mm-1200m. Windbreakers should be established to protect wind because the trees have brittle branches which can be broken easily.

Avocado trees require loose, rich and well-drained soils. The best PH range for successful trees ranges between 5 to 7, too acidic soils can be corrected by adding lime or sulphur.

Field Operations.

Planting materials.

Hass avocados tend to unite one another through a process known as grafting. The grafting should be done on a wedge shape so that they can unite well. Why do farmers do graft their seedlings? The technique of grafting yields a quicker harvest, consistent fruits, quality fruits increasing its adaptability to different soils and diseases resistant avocado trees. The grafted seedlings are tied tightly and put in a shade. Always liaise with agricultural officers to ensure your seedlings are disease-free.   

Land preparation.

Preparation of avocado should be done like for others crops.

Planting holes.

Soil fertility is a vital component for the spacing of Avocados trees and climatic conditions. Spacing may range from 5M by 5M, 6M by 6M and 7M by 7M.

Planting holes should be around 60cm (2fts) by 60cm (2fts). Soil sampling should be done when digging holes. Do not mix topsoil with subsoil. Some soil sampling should be done such as 10-12 times at the depth of 5cm to 15 cm. legitimate soil testing centres or natural agriculture laboratories should be used.

Crop husbandry mechanism is embraced in the case of Hass avocados taking note of straight lines during plantation. It eases other farming activities such as inspection, thinning, pruning and harvesting.

After completing the soil sampling, the planting holes are filled with two buckets of farmyards manure properly mixed with topsoil. Depending on your region and weather forecast ensure plating is undertaken based on favourable climatic conditions. In scenarios where rain is not forthcoming consider irrigating your seedlings.

Pruning.

Pruning is done to avocado trees to ease the number of activities such as picking, seedlings to fit into planting holes, to have a good shape and size. The trees are pruned to a height of 5-6m, avocados are pruned before the flowering stage and after completion of harvesting to allow light to penetrate through to enhance yields.

Thinning.

Thinning is done to too many fruits which results in small size fruits to reduce competition for nutrients hence ensuring high-quality fruits.

Weeds control.

There are various methods for controlling weeds in avocado farming, these are mechanically cultivation, planting covers crop and mulch. Weeds compete with avocados for nutrients and water hence reduce yield production.

Pest and diseases control.

For avocado trees to grow well, pests and diseases should be controlled up to date. Some practices such as proper selection of planting materials, maintaining plant density, weed control and proper fertilizer application should be looked up. Some pests which attack avocados include false codling moth, thrips, and scale insects.

The fungal disease may also affect avocados hence the need for the disease to be checked. The following are examples of diseases;..

  • Cercospora fruit sport.

The disease affects the fruits leaving them small and light yellow sports.

  • Anthracnose.

Anthracnose attacks mature fruits forming dry, dark brown sports.

  • Root rot.

The disease is prevented with the treatment of seeds by immersing in hot water and grafting the seedlings.

  • Scab.

The disease attacks fruits, twigs and leaves, fruits are more susceptible to the disease when young.

Harvesting

It is hard to tell when avocado fruits are ready for harvesting unless they are of varieties that change color at maturity. After flowering, the farmer needs to wait for a period of 5 to 10 months. For hass variety, it matures when they start to turn from green to dark purple color. View avocados are harvested and put at room temperature to ripen them. When they got ripen uniformly that shows that they are ready for harvesting. When it comes to harvesting, you will clippers for lower hanging fruits and sharp v with the metal rim for the higher ones.

Marketing  Avocados.

Avocados demand is huge both locally and globally. In the local market, one piece of avocado is sold between Ksh10 -30. A farmer with few trees of avocados cans still earns some income of about Ksh 50, to 100,000 which is quite impressive.

But a farmer with a plantation of avocados is sure of earning a ton of millions of money. Avocados usage in Kenya is purely for family consumption, selling in the local market, and for exportation. Small -Scale farmers should liaise with big companies such as Kakuzi, Sunripe, and Vegpro for exportation.

Conclusion

Venturing in avocado farming is not an exercise in futility. Do all the necessary to your avocados and do it organically. Attend training, do a lot of research and visit successful farmers. After three years your avocados will be ready.

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