KENYA – Kenya has inched closer to resuming avocado exports to South Africa, by creating pest-free areas for the growth of the crop.

Inspectors from South Africa will be in the country next month to assess the progress that Kenya has made in terms of eliminating insects that had infested avocado produce, leading to the suspension of the commodity in 2006.

“We have moved closer to exporting our avocado to South Africa as so far we have addressed all the major issues that led to suspension,” said Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) managing director Esther Kimani.

Avocado from Kenya was denied access to the South African market 10 years ago after the country’s authority raised concerns over the presence of disease-causing fruit fly in the avocado imported from Kenya.

To address the matter, Dr Kimani said, Kephis and researchers from the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO) have created a pest-free area to reduce the number of insects attacking the crop.

“KEPHIS, together with KALRO have established pest-free areas to mitigate the effects of pests on horticultural produce,’ she said. The pest-free areas have been established in Elgeyo Marakwet, Tharaka Nithi and some parts of the coast province.

Kenya’s avocado exports have been facing a number of challenges, for example, fruits for export should fill a four-kilogramme carton which must contain eight to 12 avocados.

But fruits that are produced in most parts of the country, especially the northern part of the Rift Valley require 18 to 20 pieces of fruits to attain the required standards, posing a challenge in the export market.

Most parts of the country have potential to produce the required volumes, but farmers lack knowledge and information on the variety of fruits suitable for export.

February 17, 2016;–Africa/-/539552/3081490/-/10it72az/-/index.html