KENYA – Earnings of Kenyan Avocado farmers are set to increase following the slash of export duty levy from 30% to 7% by the Chinese government.

According to the Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo, the decision was reached last week following negotiations with the world’s most populous nation, reports Business Daily.

However, tough handling conditions that China has placed remain in place. The PS said the two parties are still negotiating on issues of stringent standards.

Some firms, however, have already started exporting the commodity to China despite the tough conditions that include freezing of the export fruits.

“On standards, China wanted us to export frozen avocado as opposed to fresh but negotiations are still going on,” he said.

Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), which is overseeing the export of avocados had said the conditions set by China might limit small-scale holders from accessing this market. This is given the size of investment required in terms equipment that is way beyond the means of small operators.

According to Kephis, farmers will be required to put systems in place that will support the peeling and freezing of the produce to the required temperatures before exporting.

China wants Kenyan farmers and traders to freeze the fruits to negative 30 degrees after peeling off the skin and chill further to negative 18 degrees while in transit to the destination, meaning that farmers would have to invest heavily on cold rooms to meet the requirement.

Kenya has been fighting over the last seven years to have its avocado access the Chinese market in its fresh form. But this has largely been in vain because of the fruit fly pests that are common in local produce.

Kephis managing director Esther Kimani says Kenya has created pest-free zones where avocado meant for exports will be handled as the government seeks to curb the fruit flies menace.

“After we have finished working on these pest-free zones, we will never have to worry about the risk of pests, which has been a big threat to our markets,” she said.

In addition to that the government is on the watch that the avocado’s exported have been harvested at the right time and the required condition.

Recently, Officers from Agriculture Foods Authority (AFA) intercepted three containers suspected to ferry immature avocados.

AFA Interim Director, Antony Mureithi, noted that the consignment will be thoroughly inspected to ascertain if the avocados attained maturity level needed to qualify for export.

Mureithi said farmers have been advised not to harvest immature avocados as the move may prompt international buyers to ban avocados from Kenya.

“If the avocados in the containers will be found to be immature, disciplinary measures will be taken against the dealers for going against regulations issued to guide harvesting of avocados,” added Mureithi.