Only one firm out of over 100 has met the requirements laid down by China for exporting avocados to the Asian country six months after Nairobi and Beijing inked the deal.
The deal struck in April this year between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping allowed Kenya to export the frozen fruit to tame pests.
TALKS WITH CHINA
The government, through the Ministry of Trade, has started negotiations to have the directive eased and allow local firms to export fresh avocado as they work towards laying necessary infrastructure to meet the requirements.
“The Ministry of Trade has opened negotiations with China over the matter and we expect a positive response,” said Ojepati Okesegere, chief executive officer of Fresh Producers Consortium of Kenya.
Mr Okesegere said the rule has hindered firms from accessing the crucial Chinese market that would have come as a boon to farmers.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), which is overseeing the export of avocados, says the conditions set by China might limit small-scale holders from accessing the market.
Kephis warned that the terms are so strict that Kenya’s avocado could be banned from the Chinese market if Kenya fails to comply with the phytosanitary requirements.
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 while in transit, meaning that exporters have to invest heavily in cold rooms to meet the requirement.
Kenya has been fighting over the past seven years to have its avocados access the Chinese market in still fresh form but this has been in vain because of the fruit fly pests that are common in Kenya’s produce.
Chinese inspectors were in the country in March this year ahead of Mr Kenyatta’s visit to Beijing in early May where it was agreed that the country will only be allowed to export frozen avocado.