The Horticulture Directorate of Kenya has suspended the license of the Avocado Association of Kenya (ASOK), the largest avocado lobby in the country.

The suspension comes amid allegations of actions that could tarnish the image of the industry and potentially harm international trade of the produce.

In an official letter issued this week, the Horticulture Directorate expressed its concern over the association’s chief executive officer, Ernest Muthomi, accusing him of interfering with ongoing investigations and portraying the country in a negative light.

“The Authority has noted with great concern that during this closure period, the chief executive officer, Mr Ernest Muthomi, has been engaging in activities causing disharmony and disrepute to the industry, likely to injure Kenya’s trade in horticulture,” stated the letter.

The regulatory body pointed to Muthomi’s alleged dissemination of unverified information on social media regarding Kenya’s export of immature avocados to regional and international markets.

The association head is further accused of communicating with countries in the Middle East, asserting that Kenyan avocados in their markets are contraband and should be removed from supermarkets.

In response to the suspension, the Horticulture Directorate announced that new applicants and those seeking to renew avocado dealership licenses would now need to demonstrate membership to alternative industry associations.

Mr Muthomi faces additional charges of failure to use proper communication channels, especially on matters affecting the industry and national reputation. The accusations include making constant unverified allegations against export companies, the Authority, and its officers, thus damaging their reputation.

Kenya, recognised as the top avocado exporter in Africa and sixth globally, contributes significantly to foreign currency earnings, generating over Ksh19 billion annually. The Horticulture Directorate emphasized that this achievement has been the result of sustained foreign market development initiatives over many years as the country strives to uphold market growth.