NTFIII links Kenyan avocado growers with international buyers

3 November 2015
ITC News

An annual fresh produce trade show in Berlin has borne fruit for the avocado industry in Kenya.

Over 40 tonnes of avocados grown by a Kenyan company have been shipped to France, marking the first step in a promising new commercial relationship.
The new exports are linked to a project being implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC), aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the avocado sector in Kenya and connecting producers and exporters in the country to new international buyers.

The US$ 1 million project is part of Netherlands Trust Fund III (NTF III) - Export Sector Competitiveness Programme, a sector-development programme funded by the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI), and managed and implemented by ITC in Geneva.

The avocado project is working with producers, exporters and trade and investment support institutions to provide a new vision for the industry. The goal is to improve the Kenyan avocado value chain through employing better production, post-harvest, sales and marketing techniques so that low-income avocado farmers can reap economic benefits from increased exports.

With the project objectives in mind, ITC’s Programme Officer for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, Frédérine Derlot-Copy met with representatives of one of Israel’s biggest growers and exporters of fruits and vegetables at the annual Fruit Logistica trade show in Berlin in February 2015. While the Israeli company has substantial avocado plantations in Israel, as well as long-term supply agreements with other Israeli growers, additional imports are needed to maintain the export cycle to destination markets once the Israeli growing season ends. To fill this gap, the company buys avocados from suppliers in countries such as South Africa, Peru and Chile.

“The meeting at Fruit Logistica produced quick and encouraging results,” said Derlot-Copy.

Thanks to the dialogue facilitated by ITC, international avocado buyers contacted a select number of export-ready SMEs among the beneficiaries of the NTFIII project. The Israeli company then arranged a field visit to Nairobi to learn more about the avocado value chain in Kenya, as it is considering adding the country to its list of current suppliers.

During their trip in late June, representatives of the Israeli buyer visited Kenyan avocado farms, orchards and packing houses, spoke with growers and held commercial discussions with six of the twelve exporters that are part of the NTFIII project. As a result, a decision was made to examine the possibility of doing business with two of those companies: East African Growers (EAG) and Keitt Exporters Ltd.

The Israeli company has already begun commercial activities with EAG, and intends to start buying from Keitt for the 2016 avocado season starting in March.
To kick off these commercial relationships, EAG visited the Israeli company’s French subsidiary in early July 2015. The Kenyan company has since shipped over 40 tonnes of avocados to France by air and sea. EAG will develop a supply programme for the next season, and may also eventually supply the UK market through in the medium-term.

‘I wanted to thank ITC for its help in facilitating the relationship with international buyers,’ said Ms Sajani Dutta, in charge of EAG’s fruit-export services. ‘This will enable us to develop a sound and profitable commercial and technical links with international buyers.’

Beyond its new affiliation with EAG and Keitt, the Israeli buyer is also interested in developing a technical cooperation with ITC within the framework of NTFIII, said Derlot-Copy. To mark the start of this collaboration, the Kenyan delegation was invited to Israel.

As a result, Kenyan representatives from EAG, Keitt and Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) of Kenya will travel to Israel in the first quarter of 2016, in order to learn from their Israeli partner’s experiences at every step of the value chain. They will be able to share good practices, setting the stage for strong and lasting collaboration in the future.

Derlot-Copy predicts that collaboration between the Israeli company and the NTFIII project will be “very beneficial from a commercial point of view, and also from a technical point of view. We can learn from their experience and know-how, not only for this project, but also for similar ITC projects focusing on other horticulture sectors in other developing countries”.