Various stakeholders in the avocado sector in Murang’a County have called for the enactment of a law that will weed out brokers and curb theft of avocados that has been rampant in the recent past.
The key players in the sector who spoke during a consultative forum at Kenol town want the local County Assembly to come up with an avocado law which will protect farmers from being exploited by unscrupulous dealers who are accused of perpetuating theft of the fruits.
They demanded for a county law that would promote best practices, standards, transportation, and storage, processing and marketing of the avocado.
The stakeholders said the law should also stipulate stiffer penalties to those found transporting or buying avocados without clear information of the source of the fruits.
During the forum, the Assembly Speaker Nduati Kariuki confirmed that there is a proposed County Avocado Bill, 2022 which is expected to undergo Third Reading.
The Bill becomes law, Kariuki said, it will protect local farmers from rampant theft of their avocado and mismanagement of the sector by unscrupulous dealers.
“Initially it was not possible to protect a farmer but with this bill, the grower will be safe as the traceability system will track the history of the produce from production to the consumer. Additionally, any person who commits any offence be it stealing of avocado fruit from the growers or from the collection centers and selling the produce will be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both,” he told the stakeholders.
Consequently, through the bill, quality assurance will be maintained which translates into better returns for the growers as any person who shall harvest the avocado fruit before it matures will be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh100,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to six months or both.
Recently, a section of farmers petitioned the County Assembly over increased theft of their fruits in farms saying the trend is subjecting them to huge losses. They accused brokers whom they said were behind the theft and selling of low-quality avocado.
The chairperson of the Murang’a Avocado Cooperative Union Mr John Mwaniki lauded the County Assembly for the bill noting that having a database for all the growers and key players in the sector would ensure export of the best fruits that the largest consumers are in need of.
“With a database in place, if more than what our farmers produce has been exported, then we will know that poaching was done and address the issue so as to maintain high standards of our produce,” he added.
The bill proposes that all growers register with an approved cooperative for enhancement of economies of scale and market accessibility.
An officer from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) Ms. Nyathogoe Ngathi explained that the bill would ensure their work is easy as they have been receiving low quality avocados contrary to what the consumer in Europe requires.
“Kephis does not make the rules on export rather the market makes the rules and expects us to adhere and have integrity and that is why we train our dealers and farmers on standards for best produce that will not be rejected by the market,” she said.
Ngathi continued, “This bill will make our work easier since it advocates for best management, growing and handling of the avocado produce.”
The bill further proposes establishment of an Avocado Promotion Unit under the Department of Agriculture that will maintain a database on the avocado industry and collaborate with the national government and other international, national and county agencies to market the avocado.
Avocado farmers will benefit from extension and sensitization programmes organized by the promotion unit that will be established once the bill goes through amendment and is passed into a law.
By Florence Kinyua and Bernard Munyao