Africado Ltd was established in the Kilimanjaro Region of Northern Tanzania in 2007 as the first grower in Tanzania of the Hass cultivar. Africado is Tanzania’s largest grower and exporter of avocados. In 2009, Africado successfully raised business growth capital from the Norwegian Development Finance Institution (NorFund) to complete the development of its avocado nucleus plantation farm (Kifufu Estate). The farm has planted 137 hectares of orchards to Hass and employs 140 full-time staff, and an additional 200 seasonal workers. Over 2,000 out-growers (farmers who supply avocados to Africado for export) are now engaged in the production of Hass. The farm was originally a long-abandoned coffee plantation that is now in its rehabilitated state producing 2,600 tonnes of Hass avocados a year.
In December 2012, Africado Ltd, with their partner Westfalia Ltd of Tzaneen, South Africa, was awarded a grant by the TradeMark East Africa Challenge Fund (TRAC) to assist with the construction of a state-of-the-art processing, cold-chain and packaging facility to export avocados grown and packed on site to EU and the Middle East-based customers via Mombasa port. By raising the competitiveness of Tanzanian agricultural products and being able to better access export markets for Tanzania produce, Africado has also increased the returns to its farmer suppliers by providing value-added services such as training and agricultural product quality assurance. Africado’s interest in establishing the packaging, cold-chain and export facility was to enable local producers like itself to gain direct access to export markets.
Prior to the establishment of the facility, avocados had been transported across the border to Nairobi where they were packaged and forwarded on for sale to international buyers. Under the old mechanism there were high reject rates of damaged or spoiled fruit due to breaks in the cold-chain and poor post-harvest handling as there were no export packing facilities with Tanzania. Thanks to the establishment of the facility fruit harvested from Africado’s plantation as well as that supplied by local farmers can now be washed, graded, sized and packed into 4kg export cartons and refrigerated before being loaded into containers for export. The end result has raised the quality and profile for Tanzanian produce and the securing of the long-term viability of export avocado production in Northern Tanzania.
Since the start of the project in 2012, the quantity of exports has grown from an annual figure of 488,492 kgs (122,123 4kg cartons of avocados) to 2,579,976 kgs (644,994 4kg cartons) in 2015, a 428.48% increase. Prior to 2012 exports were made on a regional basis with produce sold first to major horticultural exporters in Kenya. After 2013, Africado was able to start exporting their produce directly to international markets through Westfalia who facilitated market access to the EU countries of Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the UK. Success in export markets has meant, among other achievements, that Africado is the first Tanzanian company exporting avocados to the UK where they are sold in Ocado, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose supermarkets.
In response to the positive market trends, Africado is aiming to increase its export sales from the current annual figure of over 100 containers to 200 to 250 containers. The company is also examining options to elongate harvesting seasons by planting new cultivars, the current harvesting period being June to August, where new cultivars will lengthen the supply period from March to October. This new production harvesting initiative should add an additional 150 containers to the current performance figure of 100 containers exported, taking sales to 250 containers. In addition, Africado intends to support farmers to increase production, taking the out-grower scheme from the current development phase to full production by supporting certification of farmers and training.
The increased demand for avocados has convinced farmer Lameck Vehankira to start transitioning from banana and coffee plants to more avocado trees. “Avocados sales to Africado have given me an unexpected extra income and this provides food and financial security for my family” said Vehankira, who has supplied 200 kg to Africado from his small plot over the past two years.