KENYA – The Kenyan avocado season which kicked off with vigor on March 1st, marking a promising start for the tropical fruit exporters is experiencing logistical hurdles inevitably slowing down the process.

Paul Kyalo, Managing Director of Konza Tropicals Limited, expressed optimism about the initial phase of the season, stating, “We’ve had an excellent start of the avocado season…with most volume concentrated on the big calibres 14s to 22s. However, despite the promising beginning, logistical hurdles loom large over the industry.”

Europe remains the primary destination for Kenyan avocados, claiming over 70% of the market share. The Middle East, Asia, Turkey, and Russia follow suit as significant importers.

Yet, the recent shortage of Controlled Atmosphere (CA) reefer containers has thrown a spanner in the works, causing disruptions in shipping schedules and leaving exporters grappling with significant volumes stuck in cold storage.

The transit times to European destinations have been severely affected by the ongoing crisis in the Red Sea region.

Kyalo elaborates, “The Red Sea crisis has posed significant challenges to the Kenyan avocado season…transit times to key destinations have increased drastically.”

For instance, the journey from Mombasa to Rotterdam, which previously took 20 to 22 days, now extends to 37 or even over 40 days.

Similarly, shipments to Turkey, once completed in 18 to 20 days, now exceed 45 days in transit. Despite these setbacks, markets in the Middle East and Asia remain resilient.

The prolonged transit times have financial implications for exporters, affecting cash flows and payment cycles.

Kyalo explains, “Increased transit times result in cash flow constraints…it will take longer to receive full and final payments from buyers to fulfill consistent weekly shipping programs.”

Nevertheless, amidst these challenges, the quality of Kenyan avocados remains commendable, ensuring continued demand from global markets.

Looking ahead, exporters and growers are adopting a strategic approach to navigate the current predicament.

Kyalo emphasizes the preference to prolong harvesting to capitalize on a potentially more lucrative second half of the year.

He states, “Both growers and exporters see this situation as a medium-term problem…avocado production in Kenya remains on a trajectory growth.”

To mitigate losses, avocados unsuitable for export will be redirected to the production of avocado oil, a burgeoning market for Kenyan exporters.

Kyalo highlights Kenya’s position as the world’s second-largest processor and exporter of avocado oils, underscoring the country’s adaptability in exploring alternative avenues amidst challenges.

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