Av­o­cado toast eco­nom­ics

The Africa Report - - AGRIBUSINE­SS DOSSIER -

Ethiopia was a late en­trant to Africa’s av­o­cado rush. Though there was an ex­ist­ing lo­cal mar­ket – the coun­try boasts around 12 en­demic va­ri­eties of av­o­cado – ex­ports only be­gan in 2015 with the in­tro­duc­tion of new va­ri­eties for over­seas mar­kets. A part­ner­ship be­tween Ethiopia’s agri­cul­ture min­istry and the aid agen­cies of the US and Is­rael has since brought the Hass va­ri­ety – im­ported from Is­rael – to more than 2,000 farm­ers. Ethiopia is now the sixth-biggest av­o­cado pro­ducer in Africa.

There is a lot of catch­ing up to do. In 2017, neigh­bour­ing Kenya over­took South Africa as Africa’s largest av­o­cado ex­porter, pro­duc­ing 191,000tn, ac­cord­ing to the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion. In May, the Nairobi gov­ern­ment signed an ex­port deal with China, where de­mand is grow­ing fast. China could take more than 40% of Kenya’s avo­ca­dos when the deal is im­ple­mented. Kenya’s cof­fee farm­ers can re­port­edly earn 10 times as much as they did from cof­fee by switch­ing to avo­ca­dos.

Some reckon the rapid growth in av­o­cado production in Kenya has come at the ex­pense of quality. This leaves space for other play­ers to carve a niche. “There is an opportunit­y for coun­tries like Ethiopia to be strate­gic about how they en­ter the mar­ket, for ex­am­ple by em­pha­sis­ing sus­tain­abil­ity,” ar­gues Green­path’s Ele Gower. Some look to flori­cul­ture as a tem­plate: in just 10 years, Ethiopia has emerged as Africa’s sec­ond-biggest flower ex­porter, giv­ing even Kenya a run for its money.

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