Avocado Farming Business in Kenya Under Threat

The future of avocado farming as a business in Kenya lies squarely on the ability of Kenyan farmers to produce a consistent supply of quality fruits. That statement sounds simple, but take this to the bank; if we mess up on quality, it will only be a matter of days before we are thrown out of the international market and that’s the only market sustaining this business. 

One of the quality aspects that avocado farmers in Kenya must be keen on is to ensure that they harvest their fruits only when they are mature. As a farmer, when you harvest and sell immature fruits, you not only get paid peanuts but also put the reputation of our products at stake. Immature fruits are a turnoff to importers, retailers and consumers of Kenyan avocados. A consistent supply of such fruits may lead importers in the international market to develop a dislike for Kenyan avocado or probably anything Kenya.

Suspected immature avocados harvested for export

This means continued export of these fruits will make us not only loose on our current market but also loose prospective ones and in the end, all our efforts turn to waste.

How to tell that your avocados are mature

It is a bit difficult to determine if an avocado fruit is truly mature by just looking at it. But here are some indicators that will help you:
  • The fruit loses its glossiness (the shiny appearance) and becomes duller.
  • The seed coat becomes thin and brown instead of fleshy and white.
  • The stem end of the fruit turns yellow.
  • The stem end (the stalk) is not too firmly attached. However, take note that avocados with stalks that are too loosely attached are also too mature for export.
  • Immature avocados have a specific weight (this is a unit of comparing the actual weight of an avocado to its volume) of 1.02-0.95g/cm3. While those that mature have a specific weight of 0.95- 0.85g/cm3. There is a special machine for measuring this.
  • Immature avocados sink or float below the surface of water while mature avocados float on top of water

Determination of Dry Matter/ Oil content in avocados

This is the widely accepted scientific method of determining mature fruits. This can be done through the microwave oven method. The main disadvantage is that it is very tedious and time consuming. One person can hardly test 20 fruits in a day. This is the main method used by avocado exporters in Kenya.

Machine used to determine maturity of avocados
through measuring the dry matter content

For many exporters in the country, the urgency to harvest and export once orders are secured, your guess is as good as mine on inaccuracy of these tests. That leaves the farmers with the greatest responsibility of ensuring that harvested fruits are mature. 

Ray of Hope for the avocado farming business in Kenya

An American company Helix Instruments has developed a real time field friendly portable gadget that uses near infrared analysis to test maturity of avocado fruits.  It is fast, easy to use and gives results in about 12 seconds. It is most suitable for the avocado exporters as they can test the fruits right at the farm.

Legislation on Avocado Maturity in Kenya

On 24th, July 1925 California enacted a legislation on Avocado standards which permitted sale of avocados with a minimum oil content of 8%. Since it’s cumbersome to measure oil content, the Dry Matter which is inversely proportional to oil content is often measured as a maturity index.

Muranga Kenya: 95 years since the California Avocado Standardization Bill, Muranga County Government is yet to enact a similar legislation in a couple of weeks. We hope this will serve as a deterrent to harvesting and sale of immature fruits. Meanwhile, it is in the best interest of our business as avocado farmers in Kenya to ensure that the exporters and other middle-men do not lure us into destroying the future of the very business we are working so hard to build.

We, at richfarm Kenya consistently work with farmers to ensure the best farming practices are used. We have also compiled the Hass avocado farming guide below and put it in PDF so that you can keep it and read from your phone. You can download a free from our Farmer's Resources page. 
avocado farming in Kenya pdf

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