RWANDA – Rwanda has hit a significant milestone with the flagship of a refrigerated container carrying 22.5 tons of Fuerte and Hass avocado varieties by sea to Dubai, diversifying from the traditional air freight method.

The shipment which set sail on January 12th is thanks to a collaborative effort involving USAID Rwanda, the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), and horticulture exporters, notably Almond Green Farm.

In this third avocado consignment, unique for combining both Hass and Fuerte varieties, each contributing to half of the tonnage, Rwanda aims to test the feasibility of sea freight for avocados.

The shipment is destined to Dubai and follows two previous ones, the first to Dubai in November 2022 and the second to Rotterdam in The Netherlands in November 2023, both comprising only Hass variety.

The Fuerte variety, recognized for its softer and smoother skin, poses a new challenge in terms of perishability compared to the hard, rough-skinned Hass variety.

The container’s journey involves initial land transportation to Mombasa port in Kenya, from where it will sail to Dubai, with an estimated arrival time of 21 days.

Previously relying solely on airfreight due to being landlocked, Rwanda aims to explore sea transport, which, although slower, is cost-effective and has a lower carbon footprint.

Jean-Marie Vianney Munyaneza, Export Services Division Manager at NAEB, expressed optimism, stating, “Today, we need to prove whether they are right or wrong,” highlighting the potential improvement in export service and logistics.

Evan Meyer, Deputy Director at the Office of Economic Growth-USAID Rwanda, emphasized the impact on farmers and exporters, stating, “We are helping both farmers and exporters put more money in their pockets. With increased volumes and markets, they will increase the products.”

Robert Rukundo, Managing Director of Almond Green Farm and Chairperson of Horticulture Exporters Association of Rwanda (HEAR), explained the collaborative effort’s dual purpose.

Consolidating efforts alleviates capital pressure on individual exporters, and the shipment serves as a test for Fuerte’s market viability.

Munyaneza credited the overall growth of Rwanda’s horticulture sector to concerted efforts from the government, private sector, and development partners.

He revealed that Rwanda earned approximately $58 million from horticulture exports in the 2022/2023 fiscal year, a significant increase from the $6 million in 2012.

Specifically focusing on avocados, Munyaneza highlighted the sector’s rapid growth, with avocado exports generating around USD 6.3 million, selling about 3,200 tonnes internationally.

This is a notable increase from the USD 440,000 revenue in 2013. The success of this sea freight trial could further fuel the growth of Rwanda’s avocado value chain.

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