It is high time farmers in the country diversified into avocado production an alternative nutritional supplement and lucrative enterprise.
Growers in the Southern Highlands have a perfect zone place for avocado farming due to the high altitude and cool temperatures.
Avocados are the new rising star in the country’s agricultural scene. The crop has now become a key export for Tanzania, making the country one of the leading African avocado exporters, preceded only by South Africa and Kenya.
Tanzania has what it takes to embrace avocados farming and farmers should exploit the profitable venture.
“The market demand for avocado is so high and international markets have realised Tanzania has what it takes to produce the quality they need for their normal consumption and value addition such as making other products like oil,” says Frank Msigwa, Director and Founder of Frank Horticulture in Njombe Region.
Although avocado growers and exporters struggle to access international markets because their produce often does not meet quality standards, buyer requirements and product regulations.
Frank’s Company is not only exporting its avocados to large regional buyers in Kenya but also contributing to trade transactions within the East African Community (EAC).
New opportunities for Frank Horticulture emerged last year when the company began receiving support through the European Union (EU) – East African Community (EAC) Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP).
Local farmers are encouraged to plant as many Hass Avocado trees as possible as an alternative fruit tree whose production cost is comparatively lower, especially to small-scale vulnerable farmers. The crop is further intended to boost food and nutrition security, improve incomes and sustain living standards of people of all levels economically.
Hass avocado breed is the most popular East Africa avocado variety. It is high in protein and mineral content, is a source of high-quality cholesterol and is used in cosmetics production.
The crop is not new to many farmers that have been engaged in its production for sometime. What has changed overtime, however, is the methodology of growing the fruit to reap more yields and uplift the livelihood of farmers.
According to Msigwa, Hass avocado is not as vulnerable to pests and diseases while its fruits have a longer shelf life compared to other types. Farmers are urged to try out this quality variety, which grows in areas that are not swampy and is easy to look after.
Hass avocado is a variety of avocado with dark green coloured rough surface. Hass avocado is a large-sized fruit weighing 200 to 300 grams.
When ripe, the skin becomes a dark purplish-black and yields to gentle pressure. When ready to serve, it becomes white-green in the middle part of the inner fruit.
Owing to its taste, size, shelf-life, high growing yield and in some areas, year-round harvesting is possible. It is the most commercially popular avocado worldwide.
It is also the most nutritive among fruits and is regarded as the most important contribution of the New World to human diet, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Hass avocados mature between two and three years, have a long-life span of more than 50 years.
Experts advise prospective farmers to plant each seedling in a two feet deep and four feet wide hole. They should make sure they have a sufficient water source and organic fertilisers.
Msigwa states that avocado can be harvested after three years, depending on how they look after it with manure and regular irrigation. While they grow, farmers are required to trim the tops so that they are less leaves and more fruits.
Usually, the first trial harvest gives less fruits (10-30) per tree; a farmer can consume that at home. The next harvests after six months are the real bumper harvest because it gives 30-50 fruits.
Hass avocados constitute about 80 per cent of the fruit consumed worldwide. They are smaller, darker and thicker-skinned.