The government will not hesitate to cancel the licenses of avocado dealers who will be found contravening rules and regulations governing the transportation of the produce.
Officials of Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) who met avocado marketers and transportation agents in Murang’a said the set regulations need to be strictly adhered to, to ensure the quality of avocado set aside for export is not compromised.
The two officials David Makoli and Collins Otieno stressed the need for all the players in the avocado value chain to be alert about the set rules to safeguard the quality of the fruits.
They reiterated that the new regulations require avocados to be transported by agents licensed by the Horticulture Crops Directorate.
“Avocado regulations demand that the produce be transported in plastic crates and in a covered vehicle. Transporting the produce in open pickups has been outlawed,” said Makoli.
Yesterday’s meeting comes against the backdrop of concerns by stakeholders after an unlicensed agent was a week ago caught transporting avocado to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) without covering the produce as required by the regulations.
The action caused tension in the sector prompting the blocking of nine containers of an exporter from leaving a warehouse in Mombasa for shipment.
AFA officials said the authority is committed to ensuring only the avocado which meets set quality standards are allowed to leave the country.
Makoli said there was a team of enforcement officials monitoring the operations in the value chain and are keen on the transportation of the fruits.
“The regulations want agents to use crates in the transportation of avocado as the prime requirement. The agents must also be licensed and vehicles involved in the transportation known,” Makoli said.
Otieno said in the past two months exportation of avocados to international markets has declined following the flooding of the fruits from Peru flooding in the market.
“AFA is on the ground looking for all possible ways and enforcing the regulations to uplift the quality of the produce with efforts of increasing demand for Kenyan avocado in the international market,” stated Otieno.
Chairman of the avocado exporters association in Murang’a Samson Murithi Wakibia expressed fears they risk losing their licenses if any of their agents is found contravening the regulations.
“Some transportation agents may ignore the regulations and this may bar us from exporting avocados. There is a need to follow up and ensure the fruits are transported in the required manner,” said Wakibia.
Joseph Wanjohi, who chairs the transport agents association said the law was clear that crates must be used during the transportation of the fruits from the farm to the warehouse.
Wanjohi requested the exporters to assist their contracted agents in the acquisition of the much-needed crates, to save them from being blacklisted from the market.
“We are in the transition moment thus the need for all those involved in the avocado value chain to safeguard Kenya’s quota in the international arena,” said Wanjohi.
The new regulations were enforced by AFA in March this year before the commencement of harvesting season.
Poor handling of avocados and harvesting of immature fruits have been cited as major factors affecting the quality of the fruits thus tainting the reputation of Kenyan avocados in the international market.
By Bernard Munyao