Presently, the demand for fruits and vegies from Kenya has been temperate and high for both organic and value added products. Nonetheless, Most producers and companies exporting fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenya are both small and Medium with little if any investment capacity to broaden the production and take advantage of the market demand, and therefore have been unable to explore the export of value added products currently on demand in Europe and other International markets.
A good number of the current exports have been in raw fruits and vegetables and largely to the wholesale markets where competition is growing and prices going down. Currently, there are over 30 companies exporting fresh fruits and vegetables largely to the EU and, to a less extent, to the COMESA region, although the latter is largely informal. On average, the existing companies each exports 2 – 40 tonnes of fresh fruits per week, largely to the wholesale markets in Europe.
Competitiveness in Kenya rests with soils, irrigation, climate, opportunities, government policies as well as labour factor prices. Kenya has matchless comparative advantage for growing fruits and vegetables due to its warm, less humid tropical climate, plentiful rainfall and huge opportunities for irrigation. Soils of pH 5 to 6.5 are most ideal for the fruits (such as oranges, Avocados, mangoes and pineapples) and vast areas of this type is obtained in Kenya.
These soils are rare in the world. Kenya’s climate is summer all year round: moderate temperatures (15 -30ºC) throughout the year with a bi-modal rainfall pattern. The soils have low levels of contamination due to prolonged periods of minimal use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides creating natural quasi-organic conditions in most areas.
The November to February harvest period in Kenya coincides with the northern hemisphere winter – a period of peak demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in Europe.
Justification behind vegetable and fruit farming
There is plenty of land in the country that can be devoted to fruit farming. The government owned irrigation schemes can provide ample land. Besides there is an increasing number of out growers complimenting the raw material supply effort. The out growers however may be supported with skills, implements. An investor in fruit farming has the option of irrigating the fruit farms to ensure all year round production.
The demand for fresh fruits on a year-round basis is increasing, and consumers are willing to pay higher prices for out-of-season fresh fruits. Given EU market entry barriers, Kenya would rather target domestic, border and regional markets. Currently, there is an existing trade within the region supplying Southern Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda. The current production levels of fruits are yet to satisfy the domestic, border and regional demand. It is strategic to strengthen the existing trade which is not satisfied and yet expanding.
However, we have been advising our customers on the best practices that will ensure they sell their produce in the International markets.