By Che Bin, Huang Weixin, Huang Peizhao, People’s Daily
In a lush avocado orchard on the shores of Lake Naivasha in Nakuru County, Kenya, more than 2,500 avocado trees stretched as far as the eye could see. Richard Wafula, owner of the farm, was busy harvesting avocados with his workers.
“Soon, approximately 10 containers of fresh avocados will be delivered to Chinese consumers from here,” he said.
China and Kenya signed a protocol to foster bilateral trade in avocados in January 2022. Seven months later, the first batch of fresh avocados grown in Kenya entered the Chinese market, making Kenya the first African country to export fresh avocados to China.
In November 2022, Kenyan fresh avocados made their debut at the fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE), immediately favored by Chinese consumers. It marked another remarkable chapter in China-Africa win-win cooperation.
Richard Tuwei is an avocado farmer from the western Kenyan city of Eldoret whose orchard was originally planted with 1,200 avocado trees. In August 2022, Tuwei’s products were among the first to pass an access review and export fresh avocados to China.
“In the past, when the avocado season arrived, we had to wait for some time before picking because local traders needed time to find buyers. But now, we pick the fruit as soon as it is ripe. The demand in the Chinese market is enormous, and our products have quickly found a ready market. This new opportunity encouraged us to plant an additional 500 trees last year,” Tuwei told People’s Daily.
Kenya is the largest exporter of avocados in Africa. Currently, 30 percent of the country’s avocados are exported to China, and this trend is expected to continue growing in the future. According to estimates from the local agricultural department, avocado exports to China will increase the annual income of local farmers by 30 percent to 50 percent.
The business with the Chinese market has brought tangible changes to the lives of Kenyan farmers. Tuwei told People’s Daily that in the past, he had to borrow money from friends to pay for his children’s tuition. But now, with a stable income from avocado farming, he can comfortably cover his daily expenses, and his life quality has been significantly improved.
Wafula and Tuwei’s Chinese partner is Shanghai-based Greenchain Information Science and Technology (Greenchain). Greenchain has built partnerships with over 500 avocado growers and manages seven farms in Kenya.
To ensure that the fresh avocados meet the standards of the Chinese market, the company has signed cooperation agreements with local growers, which cover the entire process starting from the planting of avocado seeds all the way to the final sale of the fruit. This helps realize order-based cultivation management.
According to Du Gongming, general manager of Greenchain’s African business division, avocado features high economic value and low cultivation costs, and its cultivation boasts mature pest control techniques. After the successful export of fresh avocado to China last year, many Kenyan farmers started switching to avocado planting, hoping for more cooperation with China, he said.
“China has a huge population, which is a crucial asset for any market. We believe that in the future, more farmers will export avocados to China,” said Kello Harsama, principal secretary in the State Department for Crop Development in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.
After the fifth CIIE, Greenchain established a new avocado processing plant, in order to meet the growing demand in the Chinese market. The plant officially started operation in March this year.
“We purchased new equipment, introduced new packaging technology, and built a fumigation laboratory. Everyone is confident about the business development,” said Du.
It takes about 25 days for an avocado to hit the Chinese market from being picked in Kenya. Last August, the first batch of avocados from the African country arrived in China in 4 containers. This year, Greenchain has already shipped over 100 containers of avocados to China, and the number is expected to reach 300 by the end of the year.
“The CIIE has brought obvious driving effects, promoting win-win situations for multiple parties,” Du said.
In the past, China mainly imported avocados from South American countries. Nowadays, African avocados have entered the Chinese market, providing more choices for consumers.
“We are continuously expanding our marketing channels and increasing the sales of Kenyan avocados in the Chinese market,” said Du.
The CIIE debut of Kenyan avocados marked the deepening agricultural cooperation, as well as economic and trade exchanges between China and Africa.
In recent years, under mechanisms such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, 16 agricultural products from 11 African countries have gained access to the Chinese market, and China has granted zero-tariff treatment to 98 percent of products originating from 21 African countries. Today, China stands as the second-largest destination for African agricultural exports.
Greenchain has participated in the CIIE for five consecutive years, and will continue to join the sixth CIIE this year. At that time, African specialties such as pineapples from Benin, chili peppers from Tanzania, and seafood from Kenya will be showcased for the first time at the event.
China-Africa practical cooperation enjoys broad prospects, and the stories of mutual benefit and win-win outcomes between the two sides are to be continued at the CIIE.