Hass avocado farming in Kenya offers a good opportunity for youth and farmers to venture into. The market, both local and export is growing day by day but its limited by the production capacity.
Demand projections for the consumption of Kenyan grown Hass avocado fruits locally and internationally is increasing due to its inherent characteristics and adherence to Organic production. This agri-enterprise is ideal for Kenyan farmers and buyers finds them at their growing regions. The cost of production is low as it requires less labour,it is a perennial crop, resistant to diseases and pest which gives Kenyan farmers comparative advantage and well placed for organically grown Hass avocado.
Most growers of avocado are found in former central region, Kisii, and parts of western. However, north rift regions are becoming a force in the latest trends, bearing in mind they possess large tracks of land. In the recent developments, Kenya has witnessed increase in the number of countries interested in Kenyan fruits, some of these countries include, Russia, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and many more. Leading exporters include Kakuzi Ltd, Selina Wamucii, Mt. Kenya Avacado Farms.
National government through agencies such as KEPHIS, HCDA and the like have been on the fore front in improving hass avocado farming in Kenya. Local governments on the other hand have also played a great role in enhancing hass avocado farming in Kenya, for example, Mwangi Wa Iria, Muranga County governor has been providing farmers with hass avocado seedlings and marketing their produce to various exporters ensuring they get value for their produce.
Today in Kenya more and more farmers are compelled to start growing improved avocado trees, which will triple the countries production rates for exportation. The big season for avocado has begun with an expected high rise in volumes of exported avocados.
Ecological Requirements for Hass Avocado Farming In Kenya
Hass avocado farming in Kenya does well in higher altitudes of between 1000m to 2000m. Howevor, the fruit is somehow bigger in cooler areas as compared to warm areas. It requires an optimum temperature of 20-24 degrees celcius. Avocado, grows in deep soils that are well drained to avoid root rot. Although avocados are fairly resistant to drought, thy require well distributed rainfall of between 1000-1200mm for proper crop development. The best soils are sandy or alluvial loam with a PH ranging from 5-7.
Planting Hass Avocado
Hass avocado farming in kenya is is grown from seeds, however, to ensure you have the right hass cultivar, grafting is done which increases resistance to diseases, improves yield and increases its adaptability to different soils. Growers found that grafting small stems onto the seedling of another type of avocado produces a tree that matures faster and bears far more fruit than one grown from a Hass seed.
Planting material must be inspected by qualified personnel to ensure they are free from diseases. In case of newly cleared land, it is advisable to plant an annual crop a year before growing avocados, in order to achieve a good tillage of the cleared land. If there are strong winds, ensure the necessary wind-breakers such as hedges are in place.
It is advisable to plant the trees in straight lines to facilitate crop husbandry and harvesting. In Kenya, the rectangular pattern of planting is preferred for hass avocados, as it eases movement of machinery in between rows as well as other activities such as inspection, thinning, and pruning. Tree spacing depends on several factors such as soil fertility and climatic conditions. Spacing may range from, 5m by 5m, 6m by 7m to 8m by 10m.
The planting holes should be 2 feet by 2 feet. Use about one bucket of farmyard manure properly mixed with top soil. Planting should be done after the onset of rains when rainwater has properly penetrated the soil. When filling up the holes, do not damage the roots. Irrigate the newly planted Hass avocado trees or seeds preferably until the first shoots appear. Tie the young plants to sticks to support them.
Pruning hass avocados
Pruning starts at the planting stage where roots that are too long and do not fit in the planting hole are reduced in size. During the early stages of growth, trees are trained in order to maintain a good framework. Pruning is also normally done before flowering and upon completion of harvesting. The general guideline is that the tree canopy height should be 70% of row width. This allows light to penetrate. Pruning improves yield and provides a superior tree structure.
Thinning is also done by removing some of the already formed fruits in order reduce competition for nutrients, therefore ensuring high-quality fruits. Too many fruits will result to small sized fruits. Ensure weed is controlled to reduce competition for nutrients and water. Some of the methods for weed control are mechanical cultivation, cover cropping, and mulching.
Pests and Diseases that affect hass Avocado farming in Kenya
The most efficient and economical method of pest and disease control is prevention. These preventive measures include weed control, proper selection of planting material, maintaining optimum plant density and proper fertilizer application.
Hass avocado farming in Kenya is not considerably affected by pests and rarely will pest control require a chemical application. However, some of the major pests attacking avocados include, False codling moth which is a brownish, night-flying moth, thrips, and Scale insects
Fungal diseases may also affect avocados and therefore need to be checked. They include;
- Root rot – Also known as Phytophthora cinnamomi, it is mostly found in areas with poorly drained soils and flood prone areas. Some of the preventive measures include fungal and hot water treatment of seeds and grafting on phytophthora resistant rootstock. There are two chemicals registered to combat this disease i.e. Ridomil, active ingredient Metalaxyl, is a granular formulation which is applied in the soil, and works by killing the pathogen. Aliette, the second chemical is applied onto the leaves.
- It’s also called Colletotrichum gloeosporioides. It attacks the fruits, forming dry, dark brown sports. It mostly attacks mature fruits. It is controlled using copper based fungicides as well as spraying with chemicals such as Benomyl, Mancozeb, Metiram, Propineb, Thiabendazole or Triforine.
- Cercospora fruit spot or Pseudocercospora purpurea also affects the fruits leaving small, light yellow spots which eventually turn to a brownish color on leaves and fruits. It’s controlled using similar methods to Anthracnose.
- It attacks fruits, twigs, and leaves. Lesions emerge as little dark spots a little raised and are oval or elongated. It’s controlled using similar methods to Anthracnose.
Harvesting of hass avocados
Kenya Hass Avocados flowers at around October and are mature for picking between June to September. It is important to know how to identify the correct harvesting period because avocados are harvested raw and ripen off the tree. Harvest a few fruits and keep them in favourable conditions to ripen. If the fruits ripen evenly, they can be considered to have been mature. Careful picking of similar fruits from the trees can now commence.
Avocado is harvested between April and September in Kenya. Since most varieties do not change colour on maturity, a few fruits should be picked and stored at room temperature for 7-10 days. If they soften without shrivelling, then the fruit is ready for harvesting. Fruit should not be pulled from the stalk but be cut off leaving a 3-cm stalk.
Postharvest: The following treatment, processing and packaging methods should be used to prolong shelf life:
Pre-cooling -After harvesting, avocadoes must be cooled as quickly as possible to the optimum storage temperature of 5oC for Fuerte and Hass varieties; within 5 h of harvesting.
Hot Water Treatment -This treatment is used to kill fungal spores on and in the skin of the fruit. The avocadoes should be immersed in water heated to a temperature of 50°C for 3-5 min. Treatment of fruit using fungicides such as Bavistin (Carbendazim) and Sporta K Brochlura z improves the effectiveness of this treatment.
Grading And Packaging– Avocado fruits are graded according to size and weight. Injured and diseased fruits should be removed. The fruits are packed as per the orders and quality standards in 4 kg cartons after all debris, soil and foreign particles are removed using a water bath. This water must be changed periodically to avoid cross contamination. A fungicidial treatment (Thiabendazole) at 300 ml per 100 L of water is used. The fruits are waxed, and dried in hot air. Avocado fruits are stored in cold storage (5°C).
Market – The most important factors ensuring successful marketing are quality, packaging, rapid adaptation of exports to seasonal fluctuations and changing market situations (supply and demand), an intact logistical chain (including proper cooling along the marketing chain and competitive prices).
Investors who plan on venturing in the hass export business must clearly target the specifit market segment if they want to reap the full benefits of avocado-production. The export market doesn’t start with buying the seedlings for planting. Fresh products export needs a long term plan of venturing into one of the most stringent markets ever, more so for those targeting the EU food market, which is strictest in the world.