David Lule, an avocado farmer and exporter in Butambala district, says to be a successful avocado farmer, you need to be kin on diseases and pests that may affect the quality of fruits, limiting access to the export market.
“Like any other crop, avocado has to be managed well, although in Uganda, the crop can grow without much management,” Lule says.
He, however, reveals that poor management also reduces the profitability of the crop. Seedlings for planting can be got from commercial dealers at sh3,000-sh4,000. Plant at the beginning of the rainy season.
According to Lule, although no research has been done, there could be over 50 avocado varieties in Uganda.
He explains that avocado can be intercropped with coffee, chilies, hot pepper, and passion fruits, among other crops. You need to prune, weed, add fertilisers where necessary and spray against pests, says Lule.
The trees start fruiting when they are four to five years old and can remain productive for over 50 years.
In a year, a single mature tree can yield 300kg or three sacks of 100kg each. A sack can go for about sh50,000 on the local market.
Irrigation of trees
Irrigation is important during several stages of tree development and the fruiting cycle.
During the first months of establishment and later during their first years of growth, trees must be irrigated whenever there are signs of withering.
Avocados develop long taproots, but depending on the climate they may need some additional irrigation, especially during dry spells.
Sufficient moisture is required during flowering, fruit setting and fruit development.
For good productivity, it is beneficial to apply manure regularly. Between five and 20kg of organic fertilizers can be applied per tree every year.
Be careful with nitrogen – it promotes leaf growth but not flowering, and avocado roots are sensitive to high salt concentrations in the soil.
Phosphorous is usually also necessary and potassium is important for mature trees that bear fruit.
Locally, avocado can be sold to supermarkets and exporters. Internationally, the major markets are the European Union, and the US.
Lule calls for the need to have a market research into the avocado market and the varieties to find out the marketable ones.
“Market research is very important, but it is expensive for us as farmers. We are lobbying the Government to fund this research,” Lule adds.
Although avocado has a big market, proper modern management practices are seldom followed.
Lule decried the challenge of post-harvest losses as a result of improper management of avocado trees and fruits.
“Pre-harvest pest and disease control, pruning, methods of harvesting and handling are improperly done,” he says.