Kenya has been bypassed by Tanzania on the export of avocado to India after Nairobi’s hesitation in allowing the Asian nation to ship in rice seed to the country as a reciprocal measure.

The delay by Kenya to agree to the terms has seen Tanzania being granted market access, coming as a major boost to Dar as India is one of the lucrative markets given its large population.

Kenya is keen not to flood the local market with imported rice seed at the detriment of farmers who grow it in Mwea and other schemes in the country.  There are also fears that the new planting material could result in diseases that will affect the local crop.

Kenya has been scouting for new avocado markets over the last two years to accommodate a surge that is expected as the crop that was planted five years ago under the expansion programme matures.

“For India, we had completed everything it’s only that we are dealing with what we call reciprocal issues, they said if they are giving us access market for avocado we also need to give them access to their product, which is rice,” said Theophilus Mutui, managing director at Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis).

Prof Mutui said the issue is being handled by Kenya’s ambassador to India Willy Bett who is engaging state officials in Delhi.

The MD said they have agreed with Amb Bett to only pursue the matter regarding avocado to avoid the issue of reciprocity at this stage.

However, Kephis says it might have to send inspectors to India to ascertain the phytosanitary measure that India has put in place in regard to rice seed before considering whether Kenya will allow the imports or not.

Kenya has witnessed rapid expansion in the growing of avocado over the last five years following the marketing of the crop as an alternative source of income, bringing more counties that have not been planting this fruit on board.

The area under avocado cover has grown to over 20,000 hectares currently from 7,000 hectares in 2013 as more awareness of the crop is created.