Gatundu avocado farmers counting losses as thieves invade farms, harvest fruits

Avocado farmers from Gatundu North Constituency in Kiambu Country are counting huge losses after thieves began raiding their farms, illegally harvesting the fruits.

The thieves are reported to be invading the farms in the dead of the night and harvesting the fruits for sale to middlemen who buy them at throw-away prices leaving the farmers with nothing to sell.

Farmers decried that the crime is being executed by young boys from various villages who get up to Sh 3 per piece of avocado sold to middlemen as compared to between Sh 10-20 that they make when they sell the fruits to exporters who buy at their respective farms.

The burglary, they lamented, is being facilitated by increased brokers who buy the fruits whose sources are not known.

The farmers lamented that organized gangs who are radically penetrating the lucrative avocado trade in the region stealing hundreds of thousands worth of avocado fruits from them could plunge them into poverty, as they entirely rely on the fruits for their livelihoods.

An increase in the prices of avocado fruits locally and globally is also reported to have drawn a host of brokers to the trade.

While the farmers have been laughing all the way to the bank from the booming avocado business, the emerging trend of organized theft, they said, is threatening the newly found gold after their coffee and tea businesses collapsed due to infiltration of the sectors by cartels.

Led by Peter Kabui Maina who recently lost Sh 250,000 worth of stolen avocado fruits, the farmers decried that the thieves may end up sinking the sector as the affected farmers are considering uprooting the avocado trees to venture into other businesses.

Kabui noted that most affected villages in the constituency are Turiru, Kariua, Mutuma, Mang’u, Mukuyuini among others where farmers are now spending sleepless nights, armed with pangas to guard the crop against the thieves.

Joseph Waithaka, the Turiru village elder, called on the government to speedily intervene by beefing up security in the area through increased police patrols and installation of security lights to reduce crime.

The farmers at the same time called on the government to enact laws that will stop brokers from collapsing the sector that millions of farmers rely on for economic survival.

Kimani Gachihi, a leader in Gatundu North said that most farmers in the constituency left coffee and tea businesses and ventured into avocado trade to survive only for the sector to recently witness the intensified burglary.

Gachihi regretted that brokers have established shops at all villages where they stock stolen avocado fruits and urged the government to intervene to save farmers from further losses.

Similar to how the government is fighting coffee and tea cartels, the local leader urged Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua to intervene in the avocado trade to save millions of farmers at the verge of being impoverished by cartels.

The demand for avocados in the international market has been on the rise with Kenya earning billions in exports.

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