Avocado farming becomes the new green gold in Tanzania

The acting regional administrative secretary for Arusha, Mr Hargeney Chitukuro, plants an avocado tree in Arusha during the first avocados cluster for farmers in the northern zone regions. PHOTO | ZEPHANIA UBWANI

What you need to know:

Close to 9,000 tonnes valued at $30 million were exported last year, up from almost zero seven years ago.

Arusha. Tanzania has a high potential for exports of avocado, the country’s latest green gold.

Close to 9,000 tonnes valued at $30 million were exported last year, up from almost zero seven years ago.

This emerged here yesterday during the launch of the first avocado cluster for farmers in the northern zone regions.

The facility will assist farmers in training, input and seedlings supplies,as well as access to new processing technologies and markets.

Taha Group chief executive officer Jacquiline Mkindi said Tanzania should seize the opportunity due to the increasing demand for the food crop in international markets.

She said the demand for avocados from Tanzania is even much higher due to their high quality.

“Tanzania can produce more avocados for the huge market,” she said during the launching of the cluster at Ngyani Village in Arumeru District.

It is estimated that some 39,000 tonnes of the fruit are produced locally but only between 8,500 and 9,000 tonnes were exported last year.

She said at a time Tanzania’s exports a year stood at less than 10,000 tonnes, neighbouring Kenya was selling 68,000 tonnes annually to the international markets.

Avocado clusters, bringing together several farmers, are being established in order to enable them to produce enough volume for the export market.

Gilliar Daniel, the production lead at Taha Group said this is because it is difficult for smallholder farmers to meet market requirements when operating individually.

Since commercial cultivation of avocado started in the northern highlands a few years ago, Taha has made similar interventions by mobilizing farmers into formal entities.

The leading markets for avocados from Tanzania are the Netherlands and other European countries, South Africa, Kenya, Dubai and other Gulf states.

However, in recent years there has been a big demand from China and India. Currently, Tanzania is ranked the second country leading in avocado production after Kenya.

The acting regional administrative secretary for Arusha, Hargeney Chitukuro, said there were high prospects avocado can become one of the leading export crops for Tanzania. Between 2015 and 2018 annual production rose from 20,000 tonnes to 190,000 tonnes, he said when launching the cluster.

Increased local production stimulated the growth of exports from 3,279 tonnes in 2015 to 9,000 tonnes three years later. The fruit is largely consumed locally.

He called on the farmers in the northern zone regions specifically Arusha which has favourable climatic conditions for its cultivation to use the cluster to increase production.

Mr Chitukuro said importers abroad were more interests in huge volumes to suffice their large number of consumers.

The regional official said although avocado cultivation has thrived more in the southern highland regions, deliberate efforts are being made to boost its production in Arusha.

This is to enable avocado production enjoy much expertise and technology support from Taha Group which is based in Arusha.

Added to this is proximity to the Kilimanjaro International Airport (Kia), the international gateway for fresh agricultural produce exports.

Taha Group officials said already 200 farmers have registered for the cluster, located some 30 kilometres north east of Arusha and they have prepared 250 acres for avocado cultivation. Already some 500 seedlings have been supplied.

At least 1,000 avocado tree seedlings will be distributed to them for planting in their crop plots.

Less than ten years ago, avocado exports from Tanzania never existed and could not be dreamed of given the then vibrant export of flowers, fruits and vegetables.

But recent data from Taha Group has shown a sharp rise of the exports of the fruits, fetching $12 million for the economy in 2019.

The Group’s chief development manager, Mr Anthony Chamanga, said that farm-gate prices also rose from Sh450 per kilogramme in 2014 to Sh1,500 last year.

Commercial production of avocado has until very recently been concentrated in the southern highland regions, specifically Njombe District blessed with adequate water and cool conditions.

This led to the construction of a state-of-the-art facility in Njombe where farmers can store their fresh produce and is also a hub to connect with buyers.

Currently it is estimated that over 10,000 farmers across the country are involved in avocado production. This triggered an export surge by incredible 380 per cent in a span of five year