AVOCADO farmers in Tanzania could be smiling again if the economic prospects of opening up new markets are anything to go by.
A plant protection specialist with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Mr Mushobozi Baitani said here that the country was now eyeing new markets, including the US, India, South Africa and China where the demand for the fruit was high.
“Our farmers have for a long time missed out on international markets due to pests and diseases that compromised the quality of avocados from the country,” explained Mr Baitani while fielding questions from the ‘Daily News’.
The FAO Country official attributed the demand to the successful implementation of the Support Towards the Operationalisation of the SADC Regional Agricultural Policy (STOSAR), project which seeks to unlock the potential of Avocados in the country.
According to Mr Baitani, FAO experts traversed the country in a bid to earmark farms and fields that were highly affected by the pests that wreaked havoc on the plantations.
“The exercise would help us to identify the most affected areas, trap and destroy the pests,” he disclosed.
With the crops now receiving a clean bill of health from international dealers, the FAO official is optimistic that the farmers will by mid next year, start exporting the ‘green gold’ to other countries.
A Senior Agricultural Officer with Plant Health Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Mdili Katemani, expressed confidence on the country’s quest of conquering new markets from the traditional ones.
He cited China as a potential market for Tanzania’s avocados, saying the move will be an impetus for farmers to reap bumper harvests.
“Gone are the days when an avocado would retail at 400/-… the price increase just goes to show how valuable the crop is,” he said.
Avocados have become Tanzania’s latest green gold, bringing in at least 27.6bn/-annually, up from zero five years ago.
The majority are exported to Europe as its consumption of avocados reached one million tonnes a year, with the World Avocado Organisation (WAO), predicting a growth rate of 50 percent: between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes for Europe in the next ten year.
In Tanzania, prominent avocado producing areas are in Mbeya, Njombe, Songwe regions and Iringa in the southwest, as well as in Kilimanjaro, Arusha and Tanga in the northeast of the country.
Other regions are Kigoma and Kagera in the northwest, and Morogoro in the east of Tanzania.
The majority of the growers are smallholder farmers, who own hundreds of avocado trees around their homesteads and in distant farms.