Kenyan avocado farmers are hoping to reap big, following the signing of an export trade deal between the East African nation and China.
Kenya’s agriculture ministry estimates the deal could see the Chinese market purchase as much as 40% of its avocado produce.
Some farmers have even gone as far as uprooting their coffee bushes in favour of avocado plants.
SABC Correspondent Sarah Kimani met one such farmer who says he has no regrets of replacing the black gold with what is turning out to be the green gold.
Surrounded by tree seedlings and chirping birds, Elijah Gathua moves up and down his tree nursery in Gatundu, Central Kenya. This is Gathua’s daily routine for 32 years now.
From a one-man enterprise he now employs nine permanent staff who help him to tend on the seedlings.
Gatundu is traditionally a coffee growing area, but Gathua like many farmers has opted to dump coffee due to its low returns for the more lucrative avocado business.
“The work put of coffee is so high you have to tender that tree, you have to spray you have to take, but at the end of the day we were not getting money. But with avocado, this tree needs very minimal attendance,” explains Gathua.
Kenya, currently the largest African avocado exporter, is eyeing even bigger returns after the East African nation signed a deal to export the fruit directly to China beginning the year.
That and the growing Europe, Middle East and South African markets have seen aspiring avocado farmers flock his nursery.
“There before the market was not so good, because it was as if we were introducing people to plant but people were not for it. But this time around, let’s say for the last three years I would say this is gold now, it is gold,” adds Mutaru.
With millions of jobless African youth and 60% of the world’s available arable land, Gathua says venturing into agriculture and especially tree planting could earn young people handsome returns.
“Not only avocado you can grow start a tree nursery, even flowers we are building beautiful houses and we need to plant flowers, even grass loam grass, you can plant grass and when it rainy people are looking for grass, so agriculture pays, yes it pays,” says Gathua.
To give back to the community, Gathua has donated 20 seedlings to schools.