Farmers’ pain as the coronavirus crisis drags on

A worker at the farm called EATMO in Nakuru County disposes harvested basil that was targeted for the export market. After the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted export operations, such businesses have been affected greatly due to the stifled export markets. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP About this time every year, brokers normally descend on avocado farms across the country to buy the fruits and sell to firms that export them to different parts of the world, including Europe and the Middle East.

But with the outbreak of the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the brisk business that happens in avocado-growing counties like Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Bomet and Meru is missing.

With most of the airlines grounded and the global market shut as countries battle the disease, things are not rosy for farmers, processors and exporters.

“Only one broker has so far come to us in about a month seeking to buy a piece of the fruit at Sh7 but we declined because a piece normally goes from Sh10-Sh15. We are waiting to see what happens,” says Johnson Nkanata Mwongera, the chairman of Avocado Champions, a fruit growers association with 30 members in Meru.

Mwongera says it is much worse for macadamia nuts, which are mainly exported as they have little local demand.
Some brokers are buying from frustrated farmers a kilo of nuts for Sh80, down from Sh220.

“Farmers are experiencing lots of frustrations right now and the uncertainty surrounding when the situation will normalise is hurting us even further.”

Moses Murithi, a farmer in Tharaka-Nithi County who grows both macadamia and avocados, noted that the situation has put farmers in a deep dilemma.

“We don’t know whether to sell the produce at throwaway prices or hold on hoping that the crisis will end soon or the governments will intervene,” he says, adding brokers are offering as low as Sh60 per kilo of macadamia.

Mwongera notes that farmers who grow Hass avocados are a little better off as the variety remains green and under good storage facilities can last three to four months.

Gideon Gitonga, an avocado farmer in Meru, says from his two acres with 250 trees, he harvests fruits that earn him up to Sh800,000 annually. “Each tree produces a maximum of 1,000 fruits a year, which I sell for between Sh10 and Sh15 each.”
Peter Wangara, a partner at Limbua Group, a macadamia processing firm, says the business has been affected greatly due to the stifled […]

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