In 2018, Kenya became the largest avocado producing country in Africa with a production volume of around 110K tons. Kenya’s avocado production surpassed South African production for the first time ever in 2018. The production volume in 2019 is expected to increase, mainly due to the increased harvest area for avocado.
As the global demand for Kenyan avocados is increasing and the profitability of avocado is much higher than other tropical fruits such as banana and pineapple, more farmers are starting to plant the fruit. In addition, the Kenyan government is also actively supporting avocado production by providing free avocado seedlings to farmers and subsidizing small scale avocado farmers.
Kenya mainly produces and exports two varieties of avocados: Hass and Fuerte, a green-skin variety. The season for Hass avocado starts in March and ends in September and the season for Fuerte avocado starts earlier in January but also ends earlier in July.
Kenya exports around 70% of the avocados produced in the country. In 2018, the country exported around 72K tons of avocados, valued at approximately 118 million USD. The export destinations for Kenyan avocados are the European and Middle Eastern countries. Similarly, the biggest export markets for Direne Packaging, a Kenyan avocado exporter, are Russia, Italy, and the UAE.
Although the company exports both Hass and Fuerte variety, there is a strong preference for the Hass variety in the global market. The Russian market is more open towards the Fuerte variety than western European countries, but Russia still shows a preference for the Hass variety. Of the company’s total avocado exports, Hass variety represents 70%, Fuerte 25%, and the local Kenyan Jumbo, which is also a green-skin variety, 5%. The Fuerte variety is mainly exported during January and February before the season for Hass variety starts. The Kenyan Jumbo variety is mainly exported to niche markets in the Middle East.
Compared to the export price in 2018, the price in 2019 is expected to increase by around 5%. The price increase is mainly due to increased demand. Despite the increased production and export volume, due to the growing global demand for avocados, the supply increase is offset by an even bigger demand increase.
Although South Africa exports to similar markets as Kenya, the two countries are not direct competitors due to different export seasons. The South African season starts in September and ends in February, so the seasons of the two countries in fact have complementary seasons.
Avocados from Mexico and Peru are also exported to similar markets as Kenyan avocados. However, according to Tom Owuor from Direne Packaging, Hass avocados from Kenya have different tastes compared to Hass avocados from Mexico and Peru because Kenya is located in a different ecological zone, which results in contrasting production climates. Because of the taste difference, Kenyan avocados have a unique position in the European markets.
In mid-2019, Kenya and China signed a deal allowing frozen Kenyan avocados to be exported to China. The avocado market is rapidly growing in China, and due to the country’s vast consumer population, exporting to China presents an opportunity for Kenyan exporters. Direne Packaging is expecting to send its first shipment of frozen avocados to China by March 2020. The company has also established new connections in the Netherlands and is expecting to send avocado shipments to the country in early 2020.