Developing Export Markets For Avocado in Kilimanjaro Region

Africado
Africado Leveling of the Soil

Africado Ltd was incorporated in 2007 as the first grower of avocadoes in Northern Tanzania and is Tanzania’s largest grower and exporter of avocadoes. In December 2012, Africado Ltd, alongside their partner Westfalia Ltd of Tzaneen, South Africa, was awarded a grant by TradeMark East Africa Research and Advocacy Challenge Fund (TRAC) to construct a state-of-the-art packaging, cold chain and export facility that will export avocadoes grown in the Kilimanjaro area to the EU and the Middle East via Mombasa port, thus developing the export market for Tanzania and increasing returns to farmers.

The project has led to the creation of over 130 permanent and 120 seasonal jobs at Africado, of whom 50% are women. It has also resulted in 2,290 farmers being trained in how to plant and maintain Avocado crops and made aware of the harvesting and crop production techniques that will meet rigorous export standards.

The project has achieved improved efficiencies, and product quality at farm and processing facility levels and has opened new markets to Africado and its famers. This in turn has enhanced Tanzania’s reputation as a quality producer in agri-product markets while raising the global profile of Tanzanian avocados.

The project implementation was structured into 5 milestones as indicated below, with all milestones having been achieved:

  1. distribution of 27,000 avocado trees to farmers by end of 2013

  2. the training and coordination of 1,950 farmers’ harvesting activities by end of 2013

  3. the installation of a Fruit Packing House with the capacity of 6MT per day, certified by Africado Global GAP

  4. to increase avocado exports by 270 MT in 2014 compared to 2012

  5. to increase participating farmer incomes from the production of avocado by 100% by 2015

Africado Jairos Jumamosi Taking Care of the Nursery Irrigation

Project Outcomes

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  • Over 29,000 avocado trees were produced and were been distributed to over 1,000 farmers. Lower transport costs, better quality and new market prices have led to higher income returns that have improved farmers livelihoods.
  • Since the certification of Africado’s farmers, new markets have been accessed for Tanzanian fruit, notable sales in the EU being to the Tesco and Waitrose supermarket chains. Elsewhere in the EU Africado has had export success in Holland, Scandinavia and Spain. Before the end of 2015 there will be 1,950 smallholder farmers certified under Global Gap and ready for export sales.
  • Africado, with technical support from Westfalia, is the pioneer of Smartfresh, a suppression technology that extends the life of avocados after harvesting, thus enabling fruit to spend a longer period in containers during export which in turn reduces the risk of ripening during transport.
  • Africado has the most up to date technology installed in its processing facility that it sourced from Mafrodo, which is a world leader in post-harvest and grading equipment. This supplier relationship has resulted in the acquisition of the latest technology in washing, treatment, grading and packing of avocados in Tanzania; perhaps even throughout Africa.
  • As a result of the packaging, cold chain and export facility, fruit quality has been improved, thus rejected spoiled fruits on delivery have fallen to a negligible level which has had a secondary effect in improving Tanzania’s reputation as an agri-product supplier, thus boosting the sales prices it can command in the global market. Initially in 2013 it was recorded that 13% of the total exported avocadoes, comprising 458MT,or a volume equivalent to 85 containers, were rejected upon arrival in the EU, however since the introduction of the processing facility to date the total volume of rejected or spoiled fruit amounts to 2.3%.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Despite the recognized successes, the project’s implementation was not entirely challenge free as there were delays in the accomplishments of the agreed milestones; the main obstacles to progress including the following:
  • Construction of the processing facility and procurement and importation of the equipment proved to be a big challenge within the agreed project timeframes; however the milestone was met just in time.
  • Test runs of the processing equipment were done on site to confirm the equipment worked as designed, however it would have been better to have not to have undertaken the ‘test run’ at the start of a busy packing season, but to have tested the processing line through packing one or two containers to establish the functioning of the plant as planned; confirming the workings of the logistics chain at the same time. In spite of this, the export sales success has proved that the plan was fundamentally correct.
  • The certification process on the nucleus farm and packhouse proved to be straightforward, but much more complicated when applied to the small-scale farmers, as this requirement was a new experience for the management team so increased management resources were required and an expat manager’s contract was secured to facilitate the certification of the participating farmers.
  • There were major cash-flow challenges in the project which led to suppliers not being always paid on time; and, advances were requested from marketing agents, so there was recognition that the project’s financing needs should have been explored in greater depth before the project began its implementation.
  • Unforeseen costs and exchange rate fluctuations led to overspending on some capital items, so the project budget really required a contingency sum of funding to enable flexibility when negotiating supplier costs or exploring alternatives.
  • The resulting impacts on crop farmers are never immediate due to the time it takes for a tree to grow from sapling to crop-bearing status, so farmers’ returns, both as a group or individually, are best measured after a period of 5 to 7 years when trees become fully productive in their bearing of fruit.

With more information and better planning, these challenges could have been avoided. However, hindsight is a fine thing!

Africado Carrying of Avocados
Africado Sakmimema and Mosangame Leaders with Avocados

Conclusion

The project met its objectives of securing the long-term viability of export-focused avocado production in Northern Tanzania. The out-grower program has been expanded to 2,290 farmers planting over 50,000 avocado trees during the project’s timeframe. Feedback from the market has been exceptional, with one happy customer, Ian Daniels the lead buyer from the Greencell UK, (a subsidiary of Westfalia), stating that “The eating quality of the Africado fruit was better than the South African and Peruvian fruit we have previously sourced and compares very well with the best eating fruit from Israel”.