By Steven Mulanda
Hass avocado farming in Kenya is exceptionally gaining fame with more people venturing into its cultivation. This is attributed to the soaring demand the fruit enjoys all over the world. To know more about avocado production, Hortfresh crew visited Soloplant Kenya Limited, a modern avocado propagator and interacted with the firm’s Director Pinhas Moskovich. The man has a lot of wisdom on avocado and understands a great deal about the fruit. He is also the chairman of Amiran Kenya, a sister company to Soloplant.
You are among the pioneer growers with experience in avocado production in both Israel and Kenya, tell us more about avocado production in Kenya?
Kenya’s climate is so fantastic, very suitable for growing avocados. The environment from the point of view of soil, day temperatures, night temperature, humidity and the water is the best one can imagine for growing avocado. Kenya is one type of country for sure in the world that is very suitable in growing avocados; being located at equator. As a country, we should expand the production of this amazing fruit. I checked the quality of the avocados we are exporting to United Kingdom, Asia, Europe and they are extremely happy with the quality we are growing here. Kenya also has people of good intentions and very brilliant, who are striving very hard to thrive and succeed. The manpower is also relatively cheap.
In Kenya, avocado production ranges from 26-27 tons per hectare. The numbers of avocado produced are increasing day by day. We have had several interactions with farmers at this place and neighboring countries just to educate them how to grow this amazing crop and how it is becoming a major cash crop for this country. Soloplant is producing 300,000 seedlings annually which we sell and distribute to farmers. Kenyans have really embraced cultivation of the crop; it has transformed and moved from a fruit which was only being eaten by dogs to be a reliable source of income.
Why are you emphasizing so much on avocado farming?
The main reason is that it’s generating enormous revenue. A kilogram in Europe goes for 8 dollars. Secondly we have developed the flower industry and others like herbs which we export by air and booking the space in the planes is very expensive, but though avocado goes by planes, can be shipped by sea and the cost is relatively cheap.
Avocados are easy to grow when you get the best seedlings. They do not require much fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. The size of a six year avocado tree in Kenya is very big and its production very high comparing with the same in Israel. Kenya’s avocados come to the market when other major producing countries such as Mexico are not in the market.
We first began by developing the flower industry in this country. We followed it by introducing French beans and herbs and made big strides with that, and our current project is the Hass avocado. Avocado can be in existence for many years, which generations and generations can comfortably rely on. This is a cash business for a long time.
As an organization what can you say should be done on the problem of people harvesting immature avocado fruits?
It all boils down to the level of the knowhow and educating the farmers as far as avocado cultivation is concerned. We need to teach our people to be able to determine when the fruit is ready for harvesting. We also have a gadget that is used in determining whether the fruit is ripe or not. A farmer just pricks into it and sees the levels of the oil in it.
Farmers also need to allow fruiting of their orchards after three years of planting. When the tree starts flowering at an early stage, farmers need to pinch it and remove the flowers to enable the tree to produce quality and enough quantity avocados.
Is Hass avocado suitable for cultivation in dry lands?
Listen my friends, avocado in Kenya can be grown literally everywhere. Like I used to ask my father what I should do when I grow up and the old man replied that son it doesn’t matter what you have to do, just do it correctly, professionally and honestly. We only need to provide the knowledge; most people growing avocados unfortunately they are cultivating the crop and they don’t have water. In dry lands it’s always advisable to grow on drip irrigation. Avocados suffer more when there is no water and also suffer most when there’s too much water. You need to create a proper drainage when there is too much water.
Why are Soloplant seedlings unique?
We follow the laid down procedures promptly, we get the bud wood or scion from certified orchards. At the same time we fertigate our plants regularly based on the weather and of course when it rains we don’t. We slowly expose them to the outside climate for them to adapt.
The plants we sell have undergone a one year propagation process which guarantees the quality is excellent. If you compare the leaf size, the stem length of our plants to others being propagated elsewhere is not the same.
There are diseases that detriment the growth of avocados like rust, how does one need to go about it?
There are diseases, but if you know how to cultivate and treat avocado properly it is not a big problem. First grow healthy seedlings and provide what is needed like water, the resistance of the tree is better and much stronger. Avocados are just like human beings if you don’t feed well, you don’t drink water and all other things that are needed you become more susceptible to diseases.
What is your advice to farmers?
Farmers should not sell their produce individually especially when exploring the export market. This lacks the selling power hence little revenue being generated. Farmers need to sell as groups, consolidating their produce as a group. This enables them to have enough quantity, quality and thus maximizing the profits.