By Wan Yu, Yu Limin, People's Daily
Susan, who works for Kakuzi PLC, an agricultural cultivation and manufacture company in Kenya, finished picking the last batch of avocadoes of 2022 with her colleagues in an orchard in Murang'a county, some 70 kilometers away from Nairobi. These fruits were soon shipped to China.
Kenya is the world's sixth largest exporter of avocadoes, and the largest in Africa. In January 2022, China and Kenya signed an export agreement for fresh avocado shipment. Five months later, China's General Administration of Customs (GAC) gave nod to allow qualified fresh avocadoes from Kenya to enter the Chinese market. In August, the first batch of fresh avocadoes grown in Kenya hit the Chinese market.
The fresh avocadoes picked by Susan arrived at a port in Shanghai, China after a 20-day voyage. This batch of imports totaled 45 tons.
"Before the avocadoes arrived at the port, we had contacted the importer for the information of the imported fruits, so we could open a green channel for them and ensure that inspection could be carried out at the earliest time possible," said Luo Kaiming, a customs official in Shanghai.
To ensure the freshness of imported agricultural products, the inspection of the avocadoes was completed in a closed cold-chain facility. After the fruits passed on-site inspection and random samples were qualified in lab tests, the avocadoes soon got a "green light." They were packed and then shipped to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other Chinese cities.
In the past, the avocadoes on the Chinese market between March and September each year were imported from Peru, Mexico and other Latin American countries. Now with those from Kenya, the choices of Chinese consumers are very much diversified.
So far, the Kenyan government has appointed 15 orchards, nine factories and a fumigation treatment facility in the country as designated organizations for avocado export to China.
The successful entry of Kenyan avocadoes into China will involve more Kenyan farmers in the avocado industry, said Joseph Ongeri, an agronomist from Kenya.
Chris Flowers, Managing Director of Kakuzi PLC, told People's Daily that the avocadoes from Kenya were quite popular among Chinese consumers and were soon sold out.
He said China's consumption market is expanding and the country has complete laws and regulations. "Chinese consumers and agents have a high requirement on quality. We are very optimistic about our prospects in China," Flowers noted.
Strict quarantine and advanced cold-chain technologies make sure that fresh avocadoes from Kenya are of high quality.
According to an official with the GAC, the administration gives priority to the access applications of agricultural products filed by African countries and would quicken the inspection quarantine, so that avocadoes from Africa can get to Chinese consumers in a convenient and safe manner.
Agricultural products from the same country and similarly processed, or those of the same category but from different countries, can go through risk assessment procedures together, so as to accelerate the approval process, the official said.
"The facilitated customs clearance further reinforced our confidence in expanding agricultural imports from Africa," said Liu Mosu, general manager of a Shanghai-based importer.
According to Liu, the company imported about 200 tons of avocadoes in 2022 and the figure is expected to exceed 9,000 tons in 2023.
Wu Peng, head of the Department of African Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation between China and Africa has brought important opportunities to African industrial and supply chains over the recent years.
The two sides, overcoming the negative impacts from the external economic situation and COVID-19, have steadily put into practice various measures, such as establishing a "green channel" for African countries' agricultural products entering China, Wu said, adding that the first batch of exported avocadoes from Africa to China marked phased achievements of China's imports of fresh fruits from the continent.
Since 2022, China has inked a series of fruits trade agreements with African countries. South Africa has exported its fresh pears to China and Zimbabwe has signed a citrus export deal with China. Besides, China has signed agreements with Malawi and Zambia to legally import bean and candyleaf, respectively.
More quality agricultural products from Africa will hit the Chinese market through the green channel, and the increasingly closer agricultural trade relation between the two sides is expected to grow into a new highlight of China-Africa cooperation in the new era.