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November 20, 2008

Kenyan avocado exports to South Africa to resume after trade spat

by Sammy Cheboi

Kenyan farmers may soon resume exporting avocados to South Africa. This comes after the two governments agreed to resolve their trade differences.

At the same time, an agricultural wholesale market may be set up soon in Nairobi, according to a government paper.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto said that the issue that led to the ban has been discussed and resolved paving the way for players in the horticultural sector to resume business.

South Africa banned Kenyan avocados from its market in April saying they could spread fruit flies although market players discounted this. Traders called it an excuse because although the flies are a common pest across Africa, there was no infestation in the region as cited by the South African authorities.

Mr Ruto said Kenya continuously reviews its business relations with her partners and at times might be forced to take retaliatory measures if necessary. “The ban arose due to some misunderstanding but that has since been resolved to enhance trade,” Mr Ruto said, but could not say when exports would resume.

The minister said the two countries had engaged in constructive and fruitful discussions to end the trade standoff.

There have been unsuccessful efforts in the past to have the ban lifted, with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), an internationally recognised certifying agency, serving South Africa with documents detailing tests carried out that gave the fruits a clean bill of health.

Kenya is South Africa’s largest trading partner in East Africa with the Economic Survey 2008 showing an exponential growth in imports from the southern economic powerhouse.

Despite the ban, not all of Kenya’s avocado exports to South Africa have been affected. Some traders have resorted to extracting the oil and exporting it.

Mr Ruto disclosed that a Cabinet paper on construction of an agricultural wholesale market in Nairobi has been finalised.

He said a consultant had been hired to undertake a feasibility study on the proposed project to be set up on a 100-acre piece of land in Kasarani.

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