Data revealed by Tanzania’s private sector horticultural apex body shows that Avocado has become the country’s latest green gold, generating revenue of at least $12 million (Sh27.6 billion) annually, up from zero five years ago.

The Tanzania Horticultural Association (Taha), and the Avocado Catalogue 2020 report, show that avocado exports jumped from 1,877 tonnes in 2014 to 9,000 tonnes in 2019.

Taha’s chief development manager, Mr Anthony Chamanga, said that farm-gate prices also rose from Sh450 per kilogramme in 2014 to Sh1,500 in 2020 courtesy of Taha’s efforts to develop the avocado value chain in the country.

Tanzanian agricultural workers are made up of 80 percent of the country’s population. They engage in a wide variety of crops ranging from staple crops such as maize, cassava and rice, to exports such as coffee, cotton, tobacco, tea and sugar.

Based on the report, over 10,000 farmers in the country are involved in avocado production, increasing its export by 380 percent in a span of five years.

“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.

Taking account that less than 10 years ago, avocado exports never existed in the country, Tanzania is now the second largest producer of avocado fruit in Africa after Kenya. Kenya produces about 190,000 tonnes per year of which between 5,000 and 10,000MT are exported.

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. Majority of the avocados are exported to Europe as it consumes one million tonnes a year

However, given the phytosanitary issues in the country, imports of local avocados into China have been restricted. Exporters in Tanzania do not have access to China’s lucrative market, due to the lack of bilateral arrangements between the two countries.

Data from China Customs indicates that China’s avocado imports are valued at $105 million per annum, presenting a huge potential market for Tanzanian growers. 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.

The process requires the Tanzania government to declare quarantine pests for the China authority’s assessment and the information will be presented to AQSIQ: the relevant authority in China before that country opens up the market to Tanzanian avocados.

Avocados and other horticultural products currently earn the country more than $700 million annually, up from $60 million in 2004. The majority of growers of avocados are small and medium scale farmers.

Although these small scale farmers are faced with the risk of climate change, pests, diseases and land degradation, limited access to loans, taxes among others, farming still remains a major source of livelihood for the people.

Through the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) reforms, the Tanzanian government is empowering farmers and improving service delivery in the country.