Dutch organic distributor Eosta is starting to import large volumes of Hass grown by smallholder Kenyan avocado farmers in a new supply partnership deal that ships “Afrocados” into Europe.
Just as Spanish supply starts to phase out, Eosta avocado product manager Neville Mchina is leading the initiative which helps African farmers secure premium prices and ensures high quality shipments of a “nutty and creamy” variety the company is marketing as “Afrocados”.
“It’s a great name, we thought about it and it sounds perfect – the typical Hass “Afrocado” is much the same as the typical South American avocado but you can actually tell the difference in terms of taste,” he tells PBUK.
“We came up with the name “Afrocados” because we wanted to make African avocados stand out in the marketplace.
“However, the really significant aspect is the impact that this supply will make in Africa. We’re talking about working with smallholder farmers who have nothing but a couple of trees in their homesteads and that is the only real source of income they have.”
Mchina says how organic avocados in Europe used to almost exclusively be sourced from South America, but this has changed in recent years as Kenyan growers and marketers working with them tap into the global boom for the fruit and look for alternative sources to keep pace with demand.
The growing conditions in Kenya are usually ideal for Hass, as the regions normally get the right amount of rain, although there has been a drought this season which has led to smaller sizes.
“Supply already started a couple of weeks ago but we only had very small volumes, so now is when the proper volumes are beginning to come in and luckily enough it’s around about the same time as the Spanish season is phasing out.
“The flavour is fantastic. I’ve tried all of the different avocados from Peru, Chile, Mexico and of course the Spanish and the Kenyan avocado has a creamier, nuttier taste. You can taste the difference, it’s really a taste wonder.
“They are quite small this year because of the drought – but dynamite comes in small packages and what we have here is a real taste explosion so that phrase really applies with these “Afrocados”.”
East Africa has suffered yearly droughts since 2014 and Eosta’s avocados are grown in the area around Nairobi which is usually blessed with plenty of rainfall, but even that area is now affected.
Mchina explains how avocado trees are quite drought resistant; lack of water makes the fruits a bit smaller, but it also makes them nuttier and creamier.
‘It’s a well-known fact in viniculture that plants produce tastier fruits when they are put under stress,’ he says
“They’re higher in phytonutrients and antioxidants as well. Afrocados are available in size range 22-30, sizes 12-20 can hardly be found.”
Eosta supplying European retailers and organic food stores
After making the four week journey into the Netherlands, Eosta is distributing “Afrocados” around Europe, including the UK where they can be found in Whole Foods Market and wholesaler Langridge which is supplying to organic retailers As Nature Intended and Planet Organic.
“They are selling like hot cakes and we’re really excited about that. We are selling onto a different range of customers around Europe in the retail supply chain and in wholesale as well as smaller organic food stores,” adds Mchina.
“The UK is a good market but it’s not our biggest. We have a few very good clients in the UK currently buying our “Afrocados” but we could definitely do better and would be interested in increasing our market there.
“Right now the Spanish season is fading out so that’s when we come in with Afrocados which will be available from now until around mid July and then there will be about a six week break and as of September there will be more supply until the Spanish season begins again around mid November.”
Tenfold income increases for farmers
The export of avocados is improving the lives of the large network of small-scale farmers growing Hass. Through this supply deal with Eosta, their income has increased tenfold.
“Many of the growers used to grow food for themselves and for the local market. Now that they can sell some of their produce at a premium price, their income has increased tenfold. What’s even better is that they do it organically, sustainably, and some even in an agroforestry setting. You can really see the difference when you visit them
“They are building better housing for themselves, setting up schools, and improving roads. They have taken charge of their new situation, and that is a great achievement.
“Kenya, Uganda and basically the eastern African region has been suffering from famine with about 20 million people suffering. And we’re working with around 20,000 people, at least we know that 20,000 people are making their way out of famine and surviving through this, simply through the purchasing decisions that our buyers are making.”
Everything should be about sustainability and trading fairly, according to Mchina, and not just fairtrade in terms of certification but being fair and celebrating partnerships with farmers.
“This is about being fair in the way that you trade by making sure the other person is a partner and not just someone that you push down. They are people we are working with on an eye-to-eye level and they are getting what they deserve.
“This is how we trade with our growers in Kenya. They get the amount of money they deserve for the amount of work that they are putting in – and that is what’s most important.”