Muranga — A Murang'a farmer's union has commenced construction of an aggregation house which will enable them pack and export their avocado directly to international buyers.
The Sh70 million facility, will help the farmers allied to Murang'a Avocado Farmers' Cooperative Union to lock out brokers who for long have been exploiting them.
The project, funded by the World Bank and the county government through the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) will enable the farmers to sort and package quality avocado in effort to access international buyers.
Chairman of the union Mr. Mwaniki Gitau speaking during ground breaking for construction of the aggregation house on Wednesday in Kandara, lauded the project saying it will edge out middlemen who limit farmers' returns.
He noted the aggregation house, expected to be completed before the end of this year, will ensure they export quality fruits which are on high demand in the international market.
The chairman noted that in the last harvesting season, members of the union managed to export more than 350 metric tons of avocado, generating sh. 2 billion.
Murang'a leads in production of avocado but due to brokers farmers have not benefited hugely from their produce.
"With the aggregation house, we will be able to sort, wash and package quality fruits for international markets. This will bring in more returns to farmers," he added.
Mwaniki divulged that the union has signed agreement with four exporters who have expressed interest in buying their avocado adding that this will ensure the farmers get minimum guarantee return price.
He said they have already found markets in Mexico, Dubai, China and Egypt where they will be exporting the produce.
The sub-sector, he added, has a huge potential to generate revenue for the country pointing out that Kenya is ranked third largest avocado producer globally.
"As a union, we have settled on Sh.120 as the minimum price and we hope we can get as much as Sh.200 per kilo of avocado," he remarked adding that their target is to hit Sh.6 billion sales from avocado considering the potential of the sub sector.
Mwaniki averred that in Murang'a County there are 92,250 avocado farmers who can produce up to 700 metric tons annually adding that currently the production stands at 500 metric tons.
The chairman said the union has been engaging agricultural officers to train farmers on best farming practices for them to produce quality.
"We are doing organic farming as per the international standards and this will ensure we give the best quality to the market." he added.
Mwaniki however decried increased farm theft of the produce attributing it to unscrupulous brokers who have set up kiosks in the area.
"We have mushrooming kiosks in the area and buyers are buying any quantity at a throw away price. The theft has also occasioned harvesting of immature fruits thus tainting our reputation in the international markets," he stated.
Mwaniki continued "The government only needs to put in place measures to safeguard the produce and ensure it does not collapse like the tea and coffee sectors," said the chairman.
Simon Wamwea ward representative for Ng'araria said there is a motion in the assembly which is aimed at curbing avocado theft where the buyers will be required to obtain a license from the county government and also keep a record of the farmers who supply them with the fruit.