Murang’a farmers have raised concerns over recent increased theft of their avocado from farms.
The farmers have decried the trend that is causing them huge losses and posing a risk of exporting immature avocado to international markets.
On Tuesday, the farmers led by their cooperative union officials, petitioned the Murang’a County Assembly to formulate a law which will protect their fruits.
Presenting the petition before the assembly speaker, Nduati Kariuki, the farmers attributed the practice to the existence of brokers who are said to perpetuate theft of avocado from farms.
Through the Chairman of Murang’a Avocado Cooperative Union John Mwaniki, the farmers complained that the unlicensed middlemen are using youth to steal avocado from farmers’ farms and sell to them at meager prices.
Mwaniki said during this season of harvesting avocado, some brokers have opened illegal buying centres in local markets where they get cheap fruits which are stolen from farms.
“We want the county assembly to put in place a law which will protect us from brokers who are behind increased theft of our avocado.
“Farmers are forced to spend most of their time guarding their farms to keep the thieves away. Unfortunately, the thieves who are suspected to be local young people take chances when the residents go to church so as to steal the fruits,” narrated Mwaniki at the county assembly premises.
He added that farmers who are members of the union have declined to sell avocado to brokers since they get better prices from the cooperative.
“Since our farmers have opted not to sell their fruits to brokers, the middlemen opted to get avocados through stealing. This is really affecting the income of our members,” he added.
Peter Njuguna, a farmer from Kandara observed that the theft poses a risk of selling immature avocado, something which may force exporters from buying Kenyan avocado.
“Murang’a is known to produce quality avocado but since those stealing are just harvesting all fruits, immature avocado may block us from selling avocado to international markets,” he averred.
The speaker said the assembly will amend and pass the county Avocado Production and Processing Bill 2020 which was rejected by a section of stakeholders.
Kariuki said farmers objected to some clauses of the Bill and the assembly will revisit and remove the sections which the farmers among other stakeholders were against.
In the meantime, Kariuki assured the farmers his office will work with the county security team to tame the theft of avocado from farms.
He explained that together with the office of the county commissioner, unlicensed buyers and transporters of avocado will be apprehended.
“The county commissioner has assured me no unlicensed buyer of avocados will be allowed to do business in Murang’a. Buyers will have to explain the origin of the avocadoes and the vehicle found transporting stolen avocadoes will be impounded,” added Kariuki.
He asked farmers to work together with security agents and report suspects behind the increased theft of the fruits.
“Avocado is becoming a new cash crop for Murang’a farmers and we will not allow brokers to mess with the crop. Necessary measures will be put in place to protect our farmers,” he further noted.
By Bernard Munyao