KENYA –  Kenyan avocado farmers and exporters have been encouraged to target the growing demand in Qatar in a bid to alleviate pressure on the oversaturated Dubai market.

Okisegere Ojepat, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), highlighted the opportunity during a press briefing, emphasizing the potential for increased avocado exports to Qatar through Hamad Port, which became fully operational in 2020.

Ojepat explained, “The fact that avocado production in Qatar is non-existent, imports are present in the domestic market for a better part of the year. The Gulf state has cut reliance on the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”

According to available data, Qatar imported just over 3,000 tons of avocados in 2021, marking a 17 percent increase from the previous year.

Encouraging farmers to adhere to international standards, Ojepat noted that Qatar’s avocado market is currently dominated by Uganda.

The move aligns with Kenya’s ongoing efforts to expand its avocado market globally. Agriculture and Livestock Development Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi had announced new trade opportunities during the International Horticultural Expo 2023 in Doha last October.

Qatar stands out among Arab countries for its significant avocado consumption, which has grown fivefold since 2013, reaching 598 tons.

The increased demand is attributed to avocados’ popularity among the younger population and the interest of tourists in avocado-based recipes.

Traditionally, Qatar sources avocados from Uganda, Peru, South Africa, America, Mexico, and Lebanon. However, Kenya, with its expanding avocado production, is well-positioned to capture a share of this market.

Kenya is a leading avocado producer in Africa, exporting fruits to various destinations, including the Netherlands, the UAE, China, France, Spain, Turkey, the European Union, and the United States.

 According to the Agricultural Food Authority (AFA), Kenya exports up to 20,000 metric tons of avocados annually to the European Union and the Middle East.

In a move to maintain the quality of exports, Kenyan authorities closed the 2023/2024 fiscal year avocado season last November, preventing the harvesting and exporting of immature fruits.

The horticultural sector in Kenya has witnessed steady growth, with the latest data showing earnings of KES 157 billion in 2023, a 6.8 percent increase from the previous year.

A market report reveals that exports to the European Union accounted for 50.1 percent of total horticulture exports, with leading destinations being the Netherlands, the UK, France, the UAE, and Germany.

The fruits sub-sector registered a significant increase, contributing to farmers pocketing Sh32.2 billion during the review period.

Meanwhile, Kenyan fresh produce exporters face challenges as EU retailers, including Lidl, implement restrictions on airfreight to reduce carbon emissions.

The lack of suitable transport infrastructure, including aggregation centers and cold storage-equipped locomotives, poses a hurdle for compliance.

Okisegere Ojepat, CEO of FPC, highlighted the industry’s unpreparedness, citing the absence of the necessary facilities and logistical constraints within the railway system.

The financial challenges faced by the Kenya Railways Corporation further exacerbate the situation, affecting exporters relying on air transport for swift access to European markets.

For all the latest fresh produce industry news updates from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.