Mixed rose bush/avocado farm on 650 hectares at an altitude of 2 km
Feico Smit can be safely called an expert on Africa. In the 1990s, he was the first to tour Africa for flower auctions. Feico moved there for the fourth time. In November 2021, he became COO of Mount Elgon Orchards Kenya, a combined rose and avocado farm.
The avocado season in Kenya has just started. “The picking is now well advanced and the first containers were loaded last week,” Feico begins. The cultivation company is located – as its name suggests – near Mount Elgon, an extinct stratovolcano on the border between Uganda and Kenya. It is a national park in both countries.
“We produce avocados on 120 hectares. The major part, about 95%, of the total assortment consists of Hass. Our growing conditions are unusual by African standards. We farm at an altitude of two kilometers, have good irrigation possibilities and have access to good soil. As a result, our avocados have a much higher than average fat content than other Kenyan avocados. The harvest starts in April and the company delivers its last avocados in September/October.
“We also sort strictly. The production manager is in the orchard all day with a dry matter counter. And the workers are well trained. Customers know our boxes contain avocados, not pits. therefore, bonded with many different qualities. This does not always benefit the reputation of Kenyan lawyers. However, we control everything, from cultivation to marketing. That’s why our customers love working with us,” says Feico.
Most of the farm’s avocados are currently sold in the Netherlands and Asia. “Last year, we exported 60-70% to the Netherlands. This year, the market situation is a little worse, but there is still demand from all sides. This too is linked to our quality selection. This week, for the first time, Kuehne Nagel loaded a full container directly from Mount Elgon Orchards instead of the usual route via Nairobi airport cold stores.
This rose/avocado farm covers a total of 650 hectares. “Many of our crops have only been planted in recent years, so they will come into full production in the years to come. We still have many expansion plans and we haven’t reached our peak yet. Global avocado consumption is growing, so there is a lot of potential,” Smit continues.
There is also a synergy between the cultivation of the rose and that of the avocado. “Our avocados peak during the off-season of roses. We consider this to be a form of risk propagation as well. However, both product groups have challenges. Much is said and written about the crisis in horticulture. are, this also affects the exotic fruit sector. Airfreight and container prices have more than doubled over the past 18 months.
Feico is proud of the establishment of Mount Elgon Orchard. “That too is very professionally organised. People can get vocational training here to become car mechanics, electricians, carpenters, hairdressers or growers. We also have a hospital which treats up to 63,000 patients a year. As it is well the implementation is really the icing on the cake.”
However, challenges abound. “It’s still Africa,” laughs Feico. “A day never goes as planned, something always happens. We are far from Nairobi. So you have to make sure you are independent in everything, so you can always go on. It’s not always easy. For example, Kenya is currently experiencing a shortage of diesel, so we make sure we have a strategic supply of it, and the same goes for fertilizers,” he concludes.
For more information:
Mount Elgon Orchards
PO Box 124, Kitale
Email: [email protected]