According to statistics, Kenya is the largest exporter of avocado in Africa, producing 200,000 tonnes of avocados per year with exports estimated at 100,000 tonnes. South Africa comes second with annual exports of averagely 50,000 tonnes annually.Although farmers are reaping from the demand in the lucrative international market, they are cautious when dealing with exporters.Farmers say they fear exporters are exploiting them, because they do not know how the fruit is graded and how much each grade fetches in the market.
Unlike other fruits which are usually bright and conspicuous avocado usually become duller (brown) in appearance. The fruit is also to be picked before it ripens. The picking of the fruits from the tree is either done by the farmer or the buyer himself who has the market either local or international. Those who have an international market, need to do a number of practices in order to meet the standards put in place by the market.These practices include;
The avocado is sorted out into different categories based on;
This applies where the buyer has purchased fruits from different farmers and this helps to identify fruits with the individual farmer.
The avocado fruits are then sorted out into different sizes. The sizes may range from 28 to 84 where 28 are the biggest with the weight of 13.7oz and size 84 is the smallest with the weight of 4.5oz. every size has its price in the market
MARKS AND DISEASES
Since the avocados are being sold on the international market only the best quality fruits are considered for export. Therefore any fruit which has marks caused by diseases, insects, rodents, or mechanical handling are rejected
PRESENCE OF CHEMICALS IN THE FRUITS
The international prefers the organic avocado fruits compared to the fruits produced using chemicals. Therefore during sorting the organic fruits are highly rated and may fetch a fortune while the others produced using chemical fetch low prices or may even be rejected by the market. Therefore it is important for a farmer to grow their fruits organically to avoid this situation of their fruits being rejected when taken to the market for export The fruits are then sprayed with prochloraz or sportak that is used to discourage or prevent the growth of fungus. This helps to control anthracnose disease from fruits. This also helps to keep the insects away from the fruits. This also helps the fruit from over-ripening hence increasing the shelf life of the fruit
PACKAGING OF AVOCADO
After the fruits are sized and sorted they are then packed into (trays and boxes as determined by the importing countries). The packaging technique varies according to the market, being cardboard, plastic, or wood. The most common containers are single-wall corrugated fiberboard or wooden boxes. Smaller fruit is bulk packed into 10kg cartons. Plastic inserts with molded cups are placed in the tray. Single-layer trays weigh around 6kg. Fruit are stamped with small stickers.
COOLING OF AVOCADO
The fruits are taken in a cooling storage room which should be below 4 degrees Celsius. The time that the fruit is kept in the cooling room will depend on the initial temperature of the fruit. The fruits are advisable to be below 2 degrees Celsius when they are removed from the cooling chamber. This cooling helps the fruits to maintain their quality and also controls pests and diseases.
The means for transport is either water or air. The containers in which the fruits are used for transportation are equipped with cooling systems that enable the fruits to retain their quality and prevent the fruits from diseases.
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