Avocado export to China takes shape

ARUSHA: CHINA has picked a sample of Tanzania’s avocado farms and packhouses for compliance auditing, a major breakthrough towards Beijing’s commitment to allow local grown butter fruits to access its 150-million-US-dollar lucrative market.

All fresh avocados exported to China—the World’s second most populous nation—must comply with the Beijing phytosanitary laws and regulations, safety standards, and become free from quarantine pests.

Ministry of Agriculture has formally notified TAHA, the horticultural industry champion, that the General Administration of Chinese Customs (GACC) responsible for overseeing food compliance has selected three sample plantations for video inspection, raising hopes for the farmers of exporting the avocado to the lucrative Asian market soon.

The letter signed by Mr Samson Poneja for the Permanent Secretary in the ministry indicates the GACC has chosen the Arusha-based Usa Limited farm, Rutuba and Africado farms of Iringa and Kilimanjaro, respectively, for appraisal, affirming the Beijing’s commitment to open up its profitable market for Tanzanian grown avocado.

“The video inspection involves processes ranging from harvesting in a farm to transporting to packhouses, cold rooms storage and packaging ready for shipping,” says the Ministry of Agriculture’s Plant Health Compliance and Trade facilitation Manager, Mr Mdili Katemani.

The expert with Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticide Authority (TPHPA) said the video inspection for the first batch of avocado plantations will be carried out during the forthcoming harvesting season in March 2024.

“If all goes well, the video inspections involving the sample farms will pave way for other local plantations to submit the same, as part of the Chinese avocado market access review,” he explained.

Tanzania and China signed a protocol on sanitary and phytosanitary (PSP) requirements during President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s maiden state visit to Beijing where she engaged her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, implying that the Sino would allow the Tanzanian grown avocados to access its sprawling market for the ‘butter fruits’.

Overwhelmed by the update, the multi-million-dollar horticultural industry champion and TAHA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Jacqueline Mkindi, said the China’s gesture will herald fortunes to local farmers and bolster bilateral trade ties between the two countries.

Dr Mkindi is grateful, indeed, to the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Hussein Bashe, who, she said, worked extremely hard, courting the Tanzania’s Embassy in China to push through for the local companies to be audited with an eye to get sanitary and phytosanitary clearance.

The TAHA CEO also attributed the China’s move to grant market access for Tanzanian avocados to Beijing’s elaborate plan to increase imports from Africa, as part of a trade rebalance aimed at cutting deficits between the World’s second economy and the natural-resource-rich continent.

With a population of over 1.4 billion, China — which is the 10th leading importer of avocado globally — is now likely to become Tanzania’s next leading destination for fresh avocados that have traditionally been restricted to Europe and the Middle East.

Despite being the third-largest avocado producer in Africa after South Africa and Kenya, Tanzanian farmers have largely failed to access the export market for their produce, owing to lack of the SPS measures as is the case now with the Sino market.

“I’m so thankful and proud of our President, Dr Samia, for her finest diplomatic traits that see the lucrative avocado market opened after four years of our own struggles,” Dr Mkindi said.

Indeed, the first attempt to open the Chinese expansive market started way back in 2018 when TAHA uncovered its potential, courting the government to use its diplomatic means to unlock the roomy market for local avocados to access it.

Dr Mkindi said the President’s move means a boost to the national strategy for enhancing horticultural export value to 2 billion US dollar per annum, up from the 750 million US dollar at the moment, thus creating employment to youth and women along the value chain by 2030.

Formal statistics indicates China imported 59.61 million metric tonnes worth 149 million US dollar in 2021, thanks to the Chinese passion for avocados.

China’s soaring appetite for avocados, driven by demand from its burgeoning health-conscious middle-class, has made the “butter fruits” — unheard of a few years ago — the country’s star performer in the imported fruit market.

Beijing’s avocado import value, which is estimated to grow to 174 million US dollar per annum by 2026, offers Tanzania an enormous opportunity for drastically boosting its export of the butter fruits as well as other horticultural produces.

Dr Mkindi sees the opening of the Chinese market spurring avocado production in Tanzania by both smallholder and large-scale farmers, boosting incomes at household level as well as increasing investment in agro-processing.

Current Tanzania’s annual avocado exports stand at over 20,000 metric tonnes worth nearly $30 million, however, Dr Mkindi says the country envisages exporting more than 33,000 metric tonnes by 2026, bringing home about $50 million per year.

Tanzania produces an average of 47,000 metric tonnes of exportable avocados annually, of which slightly over 20,000 metric tonnes are exported annually.

The TAHA Chief believes the sky is the limit for Tanzania to flood the Chinese avocado market, owing to logistics comparative advantage over North and South American producers.

Available data shows that whereas an avocado consignment from Tanzania can spend 28 days on sea shipping, the same from Chile, Peru and Mexico will take between 60 and 70 days to land in China.

“A signed bilateral trade deal means everyone wins. It keeps the shelves of China’s supermarkets stocked with our butter fruits and, in return, it fetches foreign currency to our economy, creates employment to youths and women in the value chain and offers investors assurance of returns as well,” Dr Mkindi explained

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