Published on 20 Jun 2023

Singapore shipping firm PIL facilitates Kenya-Asia avocado trade

Growing appetite for Kenyan avocados in Asia

close-up of avocados harvested by a farmer from her plantation in Africa

Singapore-based shipping company Pacific International Lines (PIL) recently oversaw its first avocado shipments from Kenya to Brunei, utilising controlled atmosphere reefer containers to safeguard fruit quality throughout the lengthy voyage.

The EverFresh controlled atmosphere technology, developed by Carrier Transicold, slows down the natural ripening of produce by fine-tuning the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Lim Chee Wei, general manager of PIL's logistics division, stated that earlier successful applications of the EverFresh technology with Peruvian and Australian avocado shipments gave PIL the confidence to use it for Kenyan-grown fruit.

Kenya, despite being among the world’s largest avocado producers, exports only a small portion of its harvest. However, its avocado exports have grown in recent years, rising from 66m tonnes in 2018 to 86m tonnes in 2021. This surge has enabled Kenya to overtake South Africa, becoming the top avocado exporter in Africa.

Kenyan avocados are mainly shipped to the European Union, but Asia is becoming a more important market. In 2022, Kenyan fresh avocados were granted entry into China. Although Kenya has been exporting frozen avocados to China since 2019, fresh fruit was previously denied due to unmet plant health requirements. It is estimated Kenya will this year send 20,000 tonnes of avocados to China. 

Meanwhile, Kenyan fresh avocados are expected to soon be available in Malaysian supermarkets. In August 2022, an audit team from Malaysia conducted a pest-risk analysis on Kenyan avocados, indicating the country's intent to import the Hass and Fuerte varieties.

In the past, Kenya's avocado exports to Brunei were relatively modest. Data from the International Trade Centre indicates that the East African nation exported fresh and dried avocados valued at $93,000, $17,000, and $43,000 in 2020, 2021, and 2022 respectively.

Traditionally, Kenyan avocado production rested in the hands of a few packers working with myriad small-scale farmers, which resulted in inconsistent yields and quality. In recent years, however, there has been a significant shift to commercial cultivation. Firms originally engaged in other crops have diversified their portfolios to include avocados, leading to the establishment of commercial orchards. Key commercial exporters, such as Kakuzi, Vertical Agro, Kenya Horticultural Exporters, Shalimar Fresh, and Freshela, typically grow avocados on their own farms and also purchase from third-party growers.

PIL has been operating in Africa since the 1960s. It first established a presence on the continent in response to the shipping demands of its Chinese clients who sought to transport goods and equipment to East Africa. Last year, PIL enhanced its operations between China and East Africa. It split the previous East Africa route into two distinct services: one serving Mombasa, while the other reaches Dar es Salaam directly. More recently, PIL announced the resumption of its services to Zanzibar, Tanzania, and Port Louis, Mauritius.



Avocados in Kenya: What’s holding back smallholder farmers’, International Food Policy Research Institute, 18 February 2020

Kenya's avocado sector: Growing fast, but still growing up’, Rabobank, November 2020

PIL enhances China to East Africa Service with two direct services – EAS and EA3’, PIL, 23 February 2022

PIL resumes service to Port Louis as part of Mozambique Feeder Service (MZS)’, PIL, 03 June 2022

Kenya is Africa’s top exporter of avocados, surpassing South Africa’, SABC News, 28 June 2022

PIL resumes call to Zanzibar on Zanzibar Shuttle (ZNS)’, PIL, 15 February 2023

Kenya to export 20,000 tonnes of avocado to China’, The Star, 10 March 2023

Kenya eyes Malaysian avocado market to bridge trade gap’, The Star, 30 March 2023

PIL successfully delivers first shipment of avocadoes from Africa to Asia with Carrier Transicold’s EverFRESH Active Controlled Atmosphere System’, PIL, 31 May 2023

PIL's footprint in Africa’, Africa Southeast Asia Chamber of Commerce, Accessed 07 June 2023

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