Avocados have become Tanzania's latest green gold, bringing in at least $12 million (Sh27.6 billion) annually, up from zero five years ago, a new report reveals.
Less than ten years ago, avocado exports never existed.
But, data from Tanzania's private sector horticultural apex body, the Tanzania Horticultural Association (Taha), as well as the Avocado Catalogue 2020 report, show that avocado exports jumped from 1,877 tonnes in 2014 to 9,000 tonnes in 2019, fetching the country $12 million last year.
Taha's chief development man-ager, Mr Anthony Chamanga, said that farm-gate prices also rose from Sh450($0.19) per kilogramme in 2014 to Sh1,500($0.65) in 2020 courtesy of Taha's painstaking efforts to develop the avocado value chain in the country.
It is understood that the government and Taha jointly worked to establish a state-of-the-art facility in Njombe where farmers can store their fresh produce and is also a hub to connect with buyers.
"Again, driven by dynamics in a global surge in prices and demand, the cultivation and trading of avocados is rapidly gaining traction among the local farmers, replacing coffee production in some areas," the report says.
Taha data shows that over 10,000 farmers in the country are involved in avocado production, triggering its export surge by 380 percent in a span of five years.
The majority are exported to Europe as its consumption of avocados reached one million tonnes a year - with the World Avocado Organisation (WAO) predicting a growth rate of 50 percent: between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes for Europe in the next ten years.
The EU market represented 85 percent of Tanzanian avocado exports in 2018, whereby France imported 3,133MT; the Netherlands: 2,304MT, and UK: 1,193MT.
Based on 2018 data, Tanzania is the second largest producer of avocado fruit in Africa after Kenya. The latter produces about 190,000 tonnes per year of which between 5,000 and 10,000MT are exported.
Recently, Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga vowed to fast-track protocol with China to pave the way for local avocado exporters to access Beijing's niche market.
Data from China Customs indicates that China's avocado imports are value at $105 million per annum, presenting a huge poten-tial market for Tanzanian growers.
However - given the stringent phytosanitary issues that restrict imports of local avocados into China - exporters have never been able to access that lucrative market, basically for lack of bilateral arrangements between the two countries.
The process requires the Tanzania government to declare quarantine pests for the China authority's assessment before that country opens up the market to Tanzanian avocados.
The same information should also be presented to AQSIQ: the relevant authority in China where the Beijing market access applications are processed.
The harvest periods for avocados in Tanzania are from January to March, and May to August. The fruit is mainly grown in Kilimanjaro, Mbeya, Njombe, Songwe, Iringa Kigoma, Tanga, Kagera and Morogoro Regions.
Avocado plantations are set at altitudes ranging from 1,100 to 1,900 metres ordinance datum, with an annual rainfall of around 800 to 1,200 mm. Surface areas are also on the up in this part of the country, - especially in zones enabling earlier harvests.
The majority of growers of avo-cados are small and medium scale farmers.
The main varieties produced are Hass and Fuerte and local varieties.
The first two varieties are mostly for foreign markets.
Global production of avocados has increased by 178 per cent, rising from 891,000 tonnes in 2011 to 2.5 million tonnes in 2018 - mostly driven by high demand in the US and Europe.
Credit: Citizen Tanzania