Avocado farming in Kenya has become a goldrush especially among farmers who are frustrated by tea and coffee farming. The Avocado fruit is native to South America and Mexico but it also does well in the Kenyan climate.
In realization of the potential that the avocado fruit has, avocado farming in Kenya has become the new gold rush where every farmer in the favorable region is trying out the venture.
Benefits of Avocados | Avocado farming
The global demand for avocados has increased especially after researchers established that the fruit has anti-cancer properties.
The fruit is also rich in vitamin E, D, C, and B6, dietary fiber, potassium, proteins and oil contents.
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This makes avocado a superfood that can be used for various culinary uses such as making soups, salads, ice cream, perfume, avocado paste, and avocado oil.
Many people, however, prefer to eat the fruit fresh accompanied by other dishes.
If left to grow without training it, the avocado tree can reach a height of 18 meters or more and the trunk can grow to a diameter of 30-60cm in diameter.
The avocado fruit is known for its rich-yellow pale fresh which tastes nutty or buttery depending on the species of the plant.
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The skin color of the fruits may vary from bright green, purple to yellow-green depending on the variety of fruit. Some avocado fruits are seedless due to genetic factors or lack of fertilization
Avocado varieties in Kenya | Avocado farming
There are several avocado varieties but the commercially viable varieties popular in Kenya include Fuerte, Halls, Nabal, Pueblo among others.
The halls variety is the best for avocado farming in Kenya as its demand is grown by the day. The fruit has a rich taste and turns purple ones the fruit has ripened.
Fuerte and Halls varieties are grown for the export market while other varieties like the Puebla, Reed and booth 8 are grown for the local market.
Ecological Requirements for avocado farming in Kenya
Before buying seedlings and hopping into this promising venture, it is wise to do some due diligence to know which variety is best suited for your region.
Altitude | avocado farming
Avocados do well in altitudes varying from 0-2500m above sea level. The Halls and Nabal varieties are best suited for high altitudes of 800-2100m above sea level.
Soil | Avocado farming
Avocados are favorable plants that grow in many types of soils provided that the soils are deep, aerated, free draining, and with good holding capacity.
The avocado tree is sensitive to waterlogging and saline soils which may result in drying out of the crop. The optimum pH required for growing avocados is between 5.5-6.5.
Temperature & rainfall | avocado farming
Avocados are also sensitive to strong direct sunlight which can cause sunburn to the leaves and fruits. The recommended temperatures for growing avocados are between 16-30 degrees centigrade.
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Avocados are adapted to different rainfall conditions as long as the rain is well distributed throughout the year.
Rainfalls of up to 1600mm annually are perfect for good production of avocados. If the rainfall is not adequate, growers should consider irrigating their trees to prevent drying up.
Avocado Propagation and planting
Avocados are mainly propagated through grafting to obtain strong and resilient seedlings.
Grafting should be carried out when the seedlings reach pencil thickness. Wedge grafting method is the most successful.
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Planting holes should be 60cm x 60 x 60cm and the spacing between the plants and rows should be 9m x9m.
When planting, you should fill the hole with topsoil that is mixed with DAP and manure in order to improve the nutrient uptake of the young seedling.
The seedlings should be well watered after planting to kick-start their growing process.
Avocado maintenance practices
As the tree grows, the farmer should remove all the dry branches and unwanted suckers.
The canopy of the tree should also be pruned to keep the tree at a height of 5-8m making it easy for picking the fruits.
The tree should not be over pruned avocados are susceptible to sunburns and breakage under strong winds.
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Another necessary practice is weeding which should be carried out carefully to prevent interrupting with the root system of the tree.
Weeding should be done carefully under the canopy of the tree using a hoe. As the tree grows, the canopy and fallen leaves create a natural mulch that suffocates weeds and retains soil moisture.
Maturity & Harvesting
Avocado farming in Kenya requires patience as it takes 3 years from planting to getting the first harvest.
It is a long time to wait but the wait is well worth it. After flowering, the avocado tree takes 5-10 months to produce mature fruits. This mainly depends on the variety and the ecological conditions of a region.
When harvesting the fruits, clippers should be used to avoid damaging the tree and the fruit.
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It is important to know the right time to pick the fruit. Waiting for too long may cause the fruits to detach from the tree when blown by weak winds.
Harvesting immature fruits either, does not do any better. Immature fruits do not ripen but instead, they become rubbery, discolored and shriveled which is undesirable.
When picked at the right time, avocados ripen in 4-5 weeks at room temperatures. It is easy to tell if the fruit is ripe by gently pressing it. When ripe, the fruit yields a light pressure.
Market for avocados
Avocado farming in Kenya is mainly done due to its economic aspect. One Halls avocado, for example, retails at 10 shillings at kakuzi Kenya limited.
A mature halls Avocado tree that is well fed (more than 5 years old) should yield more than 500 fruits in one season or 800-1000 fruits annually.
In one acre, you can easily fit 200 avocado trees. If one tree can give you 800 fruits in one year, that is a cool 1.6 million from one acre.
This explains why most people have abandoned other crops like tea and coffee farming in favor of avocado farming.
If you have a piece of land suitable for the avocado farming, why not try out the venture and begin to reap your fortunes 3 years after.
Avocados do not require to be micromanaged which means you can manage a farm that is in Nyeri when you are in Nairobi by visiting the farm ones in a while.