KENYA – Kenya’s horticulture earnings dropped by Ksh20 billion (US$171m) in the first quarter of this year on the back of low-quality avocados and a sharp decline in returns from flowers.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data indicates the export value of the produce declined to Ksh26 billion (US$223m) in the period under review from Ksh46 billion (US$394m) in the corresponding time a year earlier.

Head of Horticulture Directorate Benjamin Tito, according to reports by Business Daily, highlighted that a good number of avocados that were exported were not mature enough, leading to low value and huge rejection of the produce in the world market, which would have lifted earnings.

“In the first quarter of the year there are normally no Kenyan avocados that are ready enough for export and we have traders who are tempted to push immature crop to the market, leading to low earnings and huge rejection,” said Mr Tito.

However, Mr Tito said, export earnings for horticulture will pick from April going forward after the ban on harvesting of avocado was lifted in March.

The horticulture sector had been enjoying good earnings during the Covid-19 period. For instance, in 2019, income from the export of fresh produce declined to Ksh144.6 billion (US$1.24 billion) but picked up during the first year of the coronavirus outbreak to Ksh150.2 billion (US$1.29 billion).

Earnings from horticulture exports hit a historic high last year at Ksh158 billion (US$1.36 billion) to remain the leading foreign exchange earner in the last two years by staying ahead of tea and tourism.

The good results were boosted by the high demand for Kenyan produce in the world market last year, according to the Directorate of Horticulture.

Kenya to import 540,000 tonnes of maize to avert looming shortage

Shifting focus to the grain sector, Kenya has opened a three-month window to import up to 540,000 metric tonnes of white maize to avert shortage even as prices of flour go through the roof.

National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani has okayed the move that targets to allow maize imports from outside the East African Community to offer reprieve to consumers.

“In consequence of the notification of an impending maize crisis in the country by the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Co-operatives, a waiver of import duty has been granted for the importation of not more than 540,000 metric tonnes of white non-genetically-modified organism (GMO) maize grain,” said Mr Yatani.

“The waiver of import duty shall apply to white non-GMO maize imported into Kenya on or before August 6, 2022.”

Agriculture CS Peter Munya said the imports would be restricted to what is needed by those who would be licensed to avoid shipping in excessive stocks by unscrupulous traders.

The price of a 90-kilo bag of maize has risen from about Ksh2,800 (US$24) in December to about Sh4,500 (US$38.6) in March on reduced supply.

Duty-free imports are expected to take pressure off the price given that the harvest season is about three months away.

KNBS data shows maize production in the country declined by 12.8 per cent from 42.1 million bags in 2020 to 36.7 million bags last year on the back of erratic rains.

The decline in local production saw the volume of imported maize nearly doubled from 273,500 metric tonnes in 2020 to 486,500 thousand metric tonnes in 2021.

KNBS notes that the value of marketed maize decreased by 16.7 per cent from Ksh8.2 billion (US$70.3m) in 2020 to Ksh6.9 billion (US$59.2m) in 2021 as a result of lower maize production in the review period.

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