Nichola McGregor
The first Kakuzi Kenyan avocados arrived at Halls' French operation in Rungis wholesale market last week.

Gregoire Vicherat said he was very happy with the quality, in fact he said that the Kenyan avocados were one of their favorite fruits to handle as they ripened very well, very evenly. Halls have been supplying the major retailers across Europe with Kakuzi fruits for the past 10 years with many stating that it is the best tasting fruit in the market.

Gregoire was keen to stress that the avocados which Halls sources from Kenyan grower Kakuzi are very different from other Kenyan avocados, in that Kakuzi is the only commercial avocado grower in Kenya, with 450 hectares in commercial production. There are significant planting plans which will come on line over the next couple of years, making Kakuzi one of the largest producers of avocados in Africa. "Kakuzi are an example to all in their professionalism, social and environment responsibility, as shown by their approved accreditations, including Rainforest Alliance," according to Gregoire.

Water usage on avocado is a rising concerns in certain areas of the world, due to competition with drinkable water for the population, Kakuzi has a network of dams on their estate and collect all the water needed for the irrigation of the crop year round from natural run-off. In that way they are not interfering with the water needed for the local population.

"The Kakuzi estate is similar to our South African operation in that they have a dedicated team focused on the production and are supported by Halls, where as traditional Kenyan imports are produced by many small farmers who's production ranges from a few trees to a couple of hectares and the fruit is picked up by collectors and taken to different packhouse for export. This results in inconsistent quality and ripening."

Kakuzi also successfully support the local growers in the community with technical support and advise to ensure they produce high quality fruits for export to Europe and are keen to re-establish Kenya as a significant origin in any customers avocado portfolio.

The first Kenyan avocados arrived in Europe during March but Halls waits until July to ensure the dry matter level is correct and only harvest when it reaches 23%, giving very even ripening which is essential to any ripening programmes.

At the moment Halls is receiving 10 containers per week, this will increase to around 25 containers per week for the next 14 weeks.

The European market has been stretched to a new record level over the past twelve weeks causing prices to fall, but Gregoire expects this to improve in the coming weeks as Peru, who were shipping 500 containers a week are now sending the avocados to other markets such as the US and Asia.

"The outlook for the remainder of the season is looking more promising now with a return to weekly volumes that we know the market can absorb. The demand for avocados remains very strong and even with the market having been under pressure for the past few months, the positive news is that many new consumers would have had the opportunity to taste this incredible fruit."