Why Tanzania needs to invest more in avocado production
Tanzania is fortunate to have a diversity of fruit trees. An example is that of avocado trees. According to the information available, this fruit is native to Mexico and it was introduced to Zanzibar in 1892, then its cultivation increased significantly in the 1900s.
Eating avocados is always cool. It remains our traditional aperitif that accompanies any food. The school boarders appreciate it very much.
The delicious fruit is a refreshment that adds a great taste to the food. For years, in Tanzania, it was a passing crop, intended for domestic consumption. But in recent years, things have changed. According to a 2019 study by the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC) and the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, avocado has been transformed to become a major source of foreign currency for Tanzania and a source of edible oil.
The report notes that there is huge potential for avocado to fill the edible oil shortage in Tanzania, which stands at 676.2 billion shillings ($ 294 million)! Investing in fruits for the production of edible oil can go a long way in reducing the 320,000 tonnes of annual imports of cooking oil.
And to earn Forex, as they say, the sky is the limit. Our neighbor Kenya in 2021 is ranked 8th globally for avocado production. Media report that in the first 3 months of 2021 it exported 26,481 tonnes of avocado.
A brochure from the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) indicates that in 2017, Kenya was the 6th exporter of avocados by volume and Tanzania the 20th supplier.
A story in The Citizen last year called lawyers “ green gold, ” which made at least $ 12 million a year. Last week, the executive director of the Tanzanian Horticultural Association (Taha), Jacqueline Mkindi, noted that coffee prices were falling around the world and avocados were becoming the next green gold. Prices are higher and demand is increasing.
The available data shows that Mbeya, Njombe, Songwe, Iringa, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Tanga, Kigoma, Kagera and Morogoro are the potential regions that cultivate the new “gold”. These areas combined have millions of small farmers who, if well organized, can grow avocado to new levels for export. This will make Tanzania one of the main producers of this important fruit.
In Kilimanjaro, for example, Taha came up with the idea of ââa âcluster of avocados in the northern zoneâ – where small farmers come together and produce large volumes for the export market.
This should be the way forward for all avocado growing regions.
If the world is crazy about avocados and demand keeps increasing, Tanzania has enough land to meet that demand. This will allow farmers to produce more and supply the world. But we will have to be very organized.
Long ago, when our farmers started planting coffee, tea, sugar and other cash crops, those were the days of the analogy.
There was no internet. But today, as our farmers embark on avocado cultivation, it is the digital age.
How will our farmers benefit from the development of science and technology?
Traditionally, our farmers do not earn money or earn very little in the agricultural value chain.
Most of the time, it’s because they work on their farms, it’s always a game of chance. But there are modern farmers in Tanzania, especially investors, if they plant beans they know where to sell them and some had already been awarded a contract.
Yes, the avocado market exists in China, Europe and America, but how organized are we as a country to be able to help our small farmers capture it?
In addition, as more and more investments in avocado production, policies are needed to ensure the protection of water sources as this crop is water intensive.
It’s food for thought.
Saumu Jumanne is a lecturer at the University College of Education of Dar es Salaam (DUCE)