NAIROBI, June 10 (Xinhua) -- On his farm in Murang'a County, central Kenya, Kevin Mwangi has some 100 avocado trees, from which he harvests the fruit and sells them to a multinational in the region.
He harvests the fruit twice a year, in March and in October. "From my 100 trees, I was able to earn some 250,000 shillings in one season last year," Mwangi told Xinhua in a recent interview, adding the price is the best since he started farming the fruit.
Since he started growing the fruit some six years ago, last year has been the best for the farmer and hundreds of others producing it across the east African nation.
This is because global prices of the fruit have been on the rise since 2020, hitting a peak of 200 shillings (about 1.9 U.S. dollars) per kilo in the first quarter of 2021. The fruit is packed in a 4-kg carton, which is thus going at an average of 7.4 dollars.
The higher prices have defied the COVID-19 pandemic disruption of international trade to hand Kenyan farmers, a majority of them smallholders, good earnings.
A majority of small avocado farmers in Kenya currently sell their produce directly to exporting companies after they were encouraged to form groups to enable bulking of the produce. This has seen them eliminate brokers, who were buying the fruit for as low as 0.01 dollars apiece during the peak season.
With demand rising in the global market, Kenyan farmers are selling each fruit for up to 0.37 dollars, the highest ever. According to the Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD), Kenya's avocado prices have risen by 33 percent since 2019. The directorate notes Kenyan farmers are reaping handsomely from the crop because it is grown off-season.
Kenya, which ranked the eighth globally in avocado production, saw its exports rise 15 percent to 68,000 metric tons in 2020, earning the country more than 127 million dollars, up from 59,000 metric tons that fetched 91 million dollars.
And in the first quarter of this year, the east African nation exported 26,000 metric tons compared to 15,000 in a similar period in 2020, according to HCD. The avocados are exported to Europe, Middle East, and Asia.
"Earnings from avocados are now better than those from tea and other export crops. It is the best export fruit to grow currently especially for those in the growing areas," said Beatrice Macharia, an agronomist with Growth Point, an agro-consultancy in Kajiado County.
For many small Kenyan farmers, avocados have risen from a "worthless fruit" fed to cows and left to rot in villages to a highly sought-after produce.
"We grew up not valuing avocados and we would dread their harvesting season because they would drop and dirty the compound. Today, I am growing them for export for good cash," said Moses Sigei, an accountant who works in Nairobi but farms the crop in Bomet.