NAIROBI, May 31 (Xinhua) -- The second International Africa Avocado Congress kicked off in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Wednesday with senior officials, industry leaders, and small-scale growers expressing a desire to increase the volume of avocados exported to China.
More than 90 exhibitors are attending the three-day conference, which will also involve seminars, exhibitions, and the inking of deals among players in the avocado value chains.
Phillip Kello Harsama, principal secretary at the State Department for Crop Development in Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture, said increasing the volume of avocado exports to China will be key to boosting the country's foreign exchange earnings.
"We are aware that the Chinese have found the Kenyan avocado to be very good and have decided to encourage many Kenyan farmers to plant the Hass variety which the Chinese import," Harsama said.
Kenya is the largest avocado producer and exporter in Africa and the seventh globally, with the highly-nutritious tropical fruit earning the country 15 billion Kenyan shillings (108 million U.S. dollars) annually, said Theophilus Mutui, managing director of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service.
According to Mutui, the government has prioritized enforcement of sanitary measures, improved pest and disease management, and quality post-harvest storage in order to boost avocado exports to new markets like China.
Ernest Muthomi, CEO of the Avocado Society of Kenya, said an estimated 3,000 visitors from all over the world are expected at the conference, which will also incorporate farm tours.
He said the gathering provides an opportunity for key stakeholders to share best practices on improving agronomic practices and post-harvest management to boost the competitiveness of locally-grown avocados in the foreign market.
Muthomi said China presents a lucrative market for avocados grown in Kenya, adding that orders for the tropical fruit from retail chains in the Asian nation have increased.
Jason Wang, sales director of FstSort, a Chinese manufacturer of automatic processing equipment for post-harvest preservation and treatment of fresh produce, said participating in the conference offers an opportunity to meet potential clients and expand its footprint in Africa.
Wang said his company is keen to partner with local avocado growers and exporters to improve the sorting, cleaning, weighing, and packaging of the fruit destined for overseas markets.
Zia Ali, operations director of Sunripe Group, a local exporter of avocado to China, said the reception of locally-grown Hass variety in the Chinese market has been positive, adding that his firm plans to increase shipments to the Asian nation in the June-September harvest season.