Listed superfoods grower and exporter Kakuzi Plc is set to provide free maturity testing services for local smallholder avocado farmers following the opening of the new avocado harvesting season today.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), through its Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), has announced that the 2023 avocado harvesting season will officially begin on March 24th, 2023 and has provided technical details relating to maturity parameters.
According to HCD, avocados should be harvested when they reach maturity, which is determined by a minimum dry matter standard of 24%. In a public notice, the Directorate added that harvesting avocado at the recommended stage of maturity of more than 24% dry matter content reduces the fruit’s susceptibility to mesocarp bruising.
As part of its corporate support initiatives to foster the local and export market delivery of quality avocado fruits, Kakuzi has committed to providing the preharvest maturity testing services at its FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management Systems certified Kakuzi Avocado Processing and Packhouse facility located near Makuyu town, along the Nairobi-Nyeri highway. The farmers will receive detailed pre-harvest reports on the quality and maturity of their fruit samples.
Kakuzi Plc Managing Director Mr Christopher Flowers said the laboratory-based testing services will be provided to smallholder farmers as part of a national quality assurance commitment. Even with the harvest season opening, Kakuzi, Mr Flowers said, will only commence harvesting activities for its Hass Avocado variety fruit crop in late May.
“Kakuzi is pleased that the regulator has provided the directions for strict adherence to maturity parameters. We are at hand to provide free maturity testing services for smallholder farmers at our GlobalGAP-certified Makuyu Packhouse laboratories,” Mr Flowers said.
He added, “We believe the free maturity testing services will guide local farmers wishing to harvest their avocado fruit crops. As avocado farmers, big or small, we must appreciate that every fruit we deliver to the local or export market carries the Kenya quality reputation, and that’s got to be our enduring objective; giving our customers a fruit they want more of while sustaining the Kenyan market and brand positioning.”
Taking advantage of the smallholder farmers’ free maturity testing services will help minimise post-harvest losses while enhancing the farmers’ technical skills.
The HCD Public notice noted that the exact stage of maturity during the growth and development of avocado fruit is difficult to determine because the fruit does not exhibit obvious characteristics that could suggest the optimum state of “readiness for harvest”. Further, Avocado fruit maturity will not improve after picking, so it is essential that the fruit reaches the required marketing preferences before harvest. Harvesting immature avocado fruit negatively affects fruit quality, resulting in a grassy aftertaste, watery or rubbery texture, and lack of flavour.
The Authority (HCD) has engaged avocado exporters and Horticultural Produce Marketing Agents (HPMAS) to boost compliance with maturity requirements. Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) urges all avocado value chain actors to adhere to production and post-harvest handling requirements to ensure that consumers have a positive experience when consuming the Kenyan avocado. This will also ensure that Kenya’s avocado industry remains competitive globally.
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