In a surprising move, the Kenyan government has deregistered the Avocado Association of Kenya, signaling a significant shift in the nation’s approach to the avocado industry. The decision, communicated through a letter dated January 15, 2024, by the Agriculture and Food Authority’s (AFA) Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), points to alleged misconduct by the association’s Executive Officer, Ernest Muthomi.
Government Takes a Stand Against Unethical Practices
In the missive penned by Acting Director of the Horticultural Crops Department, Christine Chesaro, the government accuses Muthomi of interfering with investigations and tarnishing the country’s image. The move comes as a response to the association’s purported dissemination of unverified information, including claims about the export of immature avocados and accusations against export companies.
A Crucial Industry at Stake
The avocado industry is a cornerstone of Kenya’s economy, earning over Kshs. 19 billion annually and securing its position as the top avocado exporter in Africa and sixth globally. The government’s decision underscores the commitment to maintaining the sector’s integrity and international standing.
Government’s Mandate to Regulate the Industry
The Agriculture and Food Authority, in accordance with the AFA Act of 2013, Crops Act of 2013, and the Crops (Horticultural Crops) Regulations, 2020, is entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing regulations to ensure the production and export of high-quality produce. The recent closure of the avocado harvesting season for the 2023/2024 fiscal year was a strategic move to sustain international markets and prevent interruptions caused by immature harvesting.
Association’s Alleged Misconduct
The government expressed concern over Avocado Association of Kenya’s actions during the season closure. Notably, Muthomi’s engagement on social media platforms and direct communication with foreign countries raised alarms, potentially jeopardizing Kenya’s standing in the global horticultural market.
Warnings Ignored: Deregistration Imminent
Despite a cautionary letter sent to ASOK on December 18, 2023, urging them to cease their disruptive activities, the association continued its alleged misconduct. The government’s decision to deregister ASOK is a resolute step to maintain order, harmony in the industry, and safeguard the reputation of both the sector and the nation.
Impact on Trade Ties and International Markets
The government fears that ASOK’s actions could lead to a loss of the growing export market in the Middle East, an area where Kenya has invested significant time and resources. The move to deregister the association aims to protect the nation’s trade ties and ensure the continued growth of the horticulture industry.
What Lies Ahead for the Avocado Industry?
As the government takes a strong stance against alleged misconduct, industry stakeholders are left to ponder the future of the avocado sector. The deregistration of ASOK marks a pivotal moment, emphasizing the importance of ethical practices, cooperation, and responsible leadership in sustaining Kenya’s position as a global avocado powerhouse.
In the wake of this development, new applicants and those renewing their dealership licenses will now need to demonstrate membership in alternative industry associations. The government’s decision is a call for a fresh start, one that prioritizes integrity, collaboration, and the sustained growth of Kenya’s avocado industry on the international stage.