Rungwe. Avocado prices in Rungwe have hit as low as Sh600 with growers and exporters attributing the collapse of the market to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has affected freight services.
Mr Noel Kabuje, Human Resources Manager of the African Growth and Retail Company in India, Dubai and Russia, said this on Friday, April 15, 2022 after Rungwe District Commissioner Dr Vincent Anney visited the collection centres.
During his visit, Dr Anney witnessed the realities of avocado access and information on domestic and foreign markets through the company.
"The challenges are many but the Russian-Ukraine war has greatly exacerbated the collapse of the market due to the heavy reliance on the use of ships, a large percentage of which are owned by Russian citizens," said Mr Kabuja.
He noted that after the outbreak of the war, all ships suspended their voyages, hampering operations, including access to markets to supply cargo.
Mr Kabuje said that before the war, in a week they would transport an average of 100 tons equivalent to five containers of avocado fruit, but now it has collapsed to an average of 40 tons equivalent to two containers.
He said as a result of the situation they find themselves stuck in the operation with a heavy load stored which discourages them from continuing to invest as they do not know when the war will end.
He noted that they are currently relying on clients who use Air Transport who on average order four to six tons which normally the available funds do not meet the Company's operational demand.
Mr Christopher Mwene, a farmer and board member of the Rungwe Avocado Farmers Association (Uwamaru) said the situation had prompted a large group of middlemen to enter and buy avocados at Sh600 per kilo instead of the recommended Sh1, 600 guide price.
As a result they are appealing with the authorities to take action against brokers who enter the fields yet they do not have valid procurement licenses and evade paying revenue to the government and causing them huge losses.
Following the remarks, Dr Anney said he had come to inspect avocado collection centres after reports of alleged fruit rot in the fields due to lack of markets without knowing what the challenges were.
''Basically I am not happy with the statements that surround the fruit that rots in the field. I have come to terms with the fact that there are buyers who continue to enter the country despite the market challenges which they (traders) have attributed to the war between Russia and Ukraine,'' he said.
Dr Anney said that given the challenge, the government would look at ways to access local markets, including controlling brokers who lure farmers.