East Africa: EAC exports to DRC surge
The total value of East African Community (EAC) partner states’ exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2018 amounted to 7.4 billion US dollars (Tanzania Daily News, 19 August). The figure represented a 13.1 per cent growth. A study on trade opportunities in the ‘Giant of Africa’ for regional SMEs, jointly launched by the East African Business Council (EABC) and the German development agency (GIZ), notes that Rwanda exported the most, out of all the six partner states. The study will enable SMEs in the EAC to realign and focus their operations to match the growing opportunities in the DRC. The DRC presents a huge trade opportunity trade. With a population of approximately 81 million people, it holds almost half of the population of the EAC member states and thus a huge market. The country’s application to join the EAC is a signal to businesses in the EAC to strategically and operationally prepare to tap into the lucrative DRC market.
Kenyan trade surges as Covid-19 restrictions lift globally
Kenya’s exports and imports rose significantly in July as various countries lessened Covid-19 restrictions, boosting trade activities (Fresh Plaza, 10 September). The bulk of Kenya’s imports during the period included industrial supplies, fuel and lubricants, machinery and consumer goods. Export of horticultural produce rose during the month with 10,449 tonnes of cut flowers, 9,658 tonnes of fruits and 4,191 tons of vegetables, according to KNBS. Kenya in April imposed a raft of travel restrictions especially for countries hard hit by Covid-19, curtailing exports and imports.
Acceptance of Kenyan passion fruits increasing on European markets
The peak season for passion fruit from Kenyan cultivation is approaching (Fresh Plaza, 25 August). According to Stella Rasmussen, managing director of the company of the same name, the most important sales markets for Kenyan passion fruit are the Middle East, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Kenyan passion fruits are available 12 months of the year, although there can be some bottlenecks. In recent years, the product has developed from a marginal one to a growth area. “We are noticing a growing acceptance on the European market. The Europeans needed a while to get used to the fruit, simply because the Kenyan varieties and the accustomed batches from South America are visually incomparable. Nevertheless, the Kenyan ones are just as sweet in taste.” So far, the passion fruits have been well received mainly by Moroccan and Dutch specialist wholesalers, while the German market remains more reserved. Passion fruits from Kenyan production are flown to Europe by plane, and air freight capacity was rapidly reduced from March onwards due to the corona pandemic. “Fortunately, we are seeing a gradual improvement in the air freight situation. We therefore hope that capacity will soon be back at the accustomed level” said Ms Rasmussen.
Kenya: Growers in Murang’a urged to take advantage of export markets
Murang’a county residents have been urged to take advantage of a modern Sh385 million (€3 million) market the government intends to build in Kangari town (Fresh Plaza, 9 September). The market will have a cold storage, making it a collection centre for farm produce for export. Kigumo MP Wangari Mwaniki said the market will end the inconsistent supply challenge, which has made it impossible for local farmers to access the export market. However, she added the market will require farmers to change from their conventional farming and adopt farming methods that do not rely on rainfall. According to the MP, Kigumo is an agriculturally rich area that does well in horticultural farming due to its climate and soils. She encouraged farmers to also venture into farming of spices such as vanilla, which have a huge demand in the international market.
Kenyan avocado trade thrives despite pandemic
Despite coronavirus, the avocado business in Kenya seems to be thriving (Fresh Plaza, 15 September). Kenya has recently topped Africa in global exports and at this point in time ranks 7th largest exporter in the world. Year by year, demand around the globe is going up. According to InspiraFarms, the fast growth in demand and prices are placing avocado as one of the top crops to be traded. Over the years, the export of avocados has gained a lot of momentum in the country. It is currently a great source of revenue and business to not only the farmers but also to the country. Statistics show that Kenya produces an average of 191,000 tons of avocado per year. It exports approximately 51,507 tons of the fruit.
Kenya: Government to get stalled pineapple processing plant moving
The Kenyan Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development has announced plans to unveil the stalled Roret pineapple processing plant in Bureti sub-county, Kericho (Fresh Plaza, 1 September). This comes at a time when pineapple farmers are recording low returns from the sale of the fruits following a directive by the county government to suspend operations at all open-air markets in the county as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus. The pineapple processing plant, located 3 km from Roret trading centre was initiated 11 years ago, but has been stalled since then. Currently, efforts are being made to finish the installation of the machines and get the plant running by end of November. The plant will process and can pineapples for sale to local markets.
New banana varieties for Tanzanian and Ugandan growers
While bananas are an important staple food in East and Central Africa, they are under threat of pests and diseases that cause yield loss (Fresh Plaza, 11 August). The region’s yearly banana crop is valued at US$4.3 billion. Tanzania Agriculture Research Institutes (TART) in collaboration with its partners, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the National Agriculture Research Organization of Uganda (NARO) and Bioversity International have been developing and evaluating the high-yielding matooke varieties – NARITA hybrids – for possible distribution to farmers. According to Dr Mpoki Shimwela, National Coordinator of banana research from Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute-Maruku centre, “All these selected clones have 30% higher yield compared to the current matooke varieties grown by farmers under the same conditions. They have good test and are resistant to pest and disease.” It took 18 years to generate the hybrids. After the official release there will be a promotion campaign to distribute them to farmers.
Tanzania: Horticultural exports drive agricultural growth
Horticultural exports from Tanzania are becoming a leading subsector that drives agricultural sector growth (Fresh Plaza, 10 August), according to the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA). TAHA Business Environment Manager Kelvin Remen said that foreign direct investment has played a significant role in increasing growth of the horticulture industry by importing technological expertise, and as more private investors join the industry, growth will continue to surge. TAHA also supplies market information to growers, showing them best practices to improve productivity. In July 2020, Deputy Minister for Agriculture Mr Hussein Bashe said the government will revive the leading horticulture estate on the southern slopes of Mount Meru in Arusha, bolstering horticultural production.
“Nigeria could become Africa’s largest avocado producer by 2030”
According to former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria could be the largest producer of avocados by 2030. Obasanjo made this statement during a visit with the Avocado Society of Nigeria (ASN) (Fresh Plaza, 25 August). The former President, who was given the ASN Grand Patron award, said “avocado is a unique crop and very lucrative business which can be done as either a business or a hobby, from having a plantation, or just a few trees in one’s compound. […] I am happy to be a member of this association. I hope more people will appreciate the value of the avocado business and join us either as a hobby or as a business.”
Ghanaian sweet potatoes should aim for high-value markets
In a new report released this month, the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) has identified several European markets that the country’s exporters of sweet potatoes should seek to exploit (Fresh Plaza, 14 September). Although Ghana’s sweet potatoes exports grew by 23.3% in 2019, to reach US$434,000 up from $333,000 in 2018, the country’s share of the global market is still an insignificant 0.1%. This makes it the 40th largest exporter worldwide. Last year, Ghana’s biggest export markets were France which bought $138,000 worth and Italy which bought $129,000 worth. Between them they bought 61% of Ghana’s total sweet potato exports. The other major export destinations last year were Belgium, Canada and the United Kingdom. GEPA’s research recommends that Ghanaian producers and exporters of sweet potatoes look to western Europe in particular for increased sales. Import tariffs imposed on Ghana are zero rated, which is the same as for the biggest exporters to the European Union.
Côte d’Ivoire: Horticulture sector assessment
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) produces Horticulture Alerts that identify current challenges and urgent key actions needed in the horticulture sector, based on surveys and focus group discussions with various stakeholders. The reports use a rapid assessment approach, developed by AidEnvironment, conducted at country level through survey and focus group discussions. WUR’s most recent horticulture assessment, for Côte d’Ivoire, was published in August and is available here.
Malawi: Strengthening the orange-fleshed sweet potato value chain
Breeders from Malawi’s Department of Agricultural Services and the International Potato Center (CIP) have developed and released nine new varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potato for farmers (Fresh Plaza, 15 September). The varieties, including Chipika and Kadyabwerere, have higher yields, better taste, improved vitamin A content and good processing qualities. Greater uptake of these improved varieties would benefit smallholder farmers directly and provide the raw material for purées. Sweet potato is a highly perishable crop, and converting it into a purée means it can be stored frozen for six months without affecting its nutrients. The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) has trained and equipped three purée producers in southern Malawi with plans to extend into the central and northern regions. Farmers benefit because purée producers can offer them a better and more stable price for their crop.
South Africa: Despite huge logistical challenges still a fantastic fresh produce season
The impact of the unusual past few months on the fresh produce supply chain was discussed at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Connections virtual conference, in what has been a season that, amid the challenges, experienced increased overseas demand for many fresh commodities and export returns optimised by a weakening exchange rate (Fresh Plaza, 24 August). Since lockdown, everyone in the fresh produce industry has been forced into the digital age, the panel heard. A freight forwarder recounted the enthusiasm for their newly-introduced dashboard and management tool, driven by digital system. “Clients now actually want the platform on his phone or on a second screen, to look at the sailing schedule and to track the container, just to avoid the phone conversation while he’s perhaps looking after the children.” See the full report on the virtual discussion here.
South Africa: Rural–urban migration
The South African Bureau for Agricultural and Food Policy expects the country’s economic recovery to be a prolonged process “with real GDP only projected to exceed 2019 levels by 2026”, according to its newly released baseline report (Fresh Plaza, 21 August). The fresh produce industry will be significantly affected by shrinking consumer demand and interrupted supply chains. Commenting on the report, Professor Philippe Burger, economist from the University of the Free State, said “The rural population is never again going to be as high as it is now,” he said. “The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) forecasts that within the next fifteen years we will see between 12 to 14 million people added to the urban population. To put that into perspective: the province of Gauteng currently has approximately 14 million inhabitants. These will be people who need to eat, so there’s an enormous opportunity here.”
South African pineapple industry
An extraordinary chapter in South Africa’s pineapple industry has come to an end with the lifting of South Africa’s months-long alcohol ban (Fresh Plaza, 17 August). Consumer demand for pineapples reached unprecedented heights as South Africans brewed beer with the fruit, creating a shortage at a time when prices were already trending upwards due to supply constraints caused by sunburn and localised hail damage, as well as a long-term drought. This led to four weeks of extraordinary prices, at one stage (during the first banning period) reaching a high of R30 (€1.46) for an approximately 800 g pineapple. Growers then requested a pineapple price ceiling to reduce volatility.
South Africa: developing an avo-cabulary
A South African avocado grower is partnering with a coffee specialist to develop a flavour wheel for the avocado (Fresh Plaza, 8 September). Within a cultivar, fruit can have taste differences due to topographical and microclimatic differences. The desire to pinpoint the flavour characteristics of particular avocado cultivars and to understand the relationship between maturity and taste aims to differentiate avocado cultivars on the market, and to develop greater flavour uniformity among avocados of the same harvest.
Dominican Republic could see a banana shortage
The damage caused by the passage of storm Laura in August could lead to a shortage of bananas and an increase in their prices in the markets of Santo Domingo, according to the President of the Federation of Traders of the New Market of Agricultural Villas, Miguel Minaya (Fresh Plaza, 28 August). In the first weeks after such an event banana prices tend to fall, as growers will harvest and market them so that they are not lost. After that, they become scarce. “Until now the market is crowded with most agricultural products, but in the next 15 or 20 days, it is possible that at least the banana, will start to rise, as a result of the great loss that it had in the large banana producing towns.”
Dominican avocado exporters create first collective brand
‘Tropical Avocados’ from the Dominican Republic is the country’s first collective brand to market avocado on the east coast of the United States, where the crop already has a 10% share of the market (Fresh Plaza, 11 September). This information was shared in an inter-institutional cooperation agreement to develop actions and strengthen this collective brand, which was signed at the headquarters of the Dominican Association of Exporters (ADOEXPO) by the association’s president Elizabeth Mena and by Brian Rudert, executive director of the Exporta Calidad Program (PEC), which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and executed by the International Executive Service Corps (IESC). Rudert said that Agroindustria Ocoeña, AMR Agro, Exportadora Tavarez, and Grupo 33 are the first four Dominican companies that will use this collective brand. The brand, which will support the production of this national fruit, will also promote the nutritional qualities of the Dominican avocado.
Fresh Dominican avocados now allowed on Chinese market
“The Protocol for Quarantine and Inspection of Fresh Dominican avocados Destined for the Chinese Market as Agreed Between the General Administration of Customs China and the Dominican Ministry of Agriculture” has been signed (Fresh Plaza, 28 August). Fresh Dominican avocados are now allowed on the Chinese market if they meet the requirements set out in the protocol and other relevant regulations.
Dominican Republic: After the lockdown, bad weather challenges the pineapple sector
In addition to a collapse of pineapple sales and export problems caused by the lockdown, pineapple has also been hit by bad weather (hurricanes) in Central America (Fresh Plaza, 3 September). Luca Bernardini, owner of 2M Exotic Fruits sold under the brand ‘Anana’, said “We were back to importing via air, but since mid-August we have practically stopped. Luckily the situation is resolving and within a few days we will be fully operational again.” Unfortunately, heavy rains in the Dominican Republic, the state from which the company imports, affected the quality of the fruit. “We only import the best pineapples and when it rains too much, they absorb too much water and the quality suffers. The air transport guarantees the highest quality and if the fruits are not the best, we cannot import them.” But while some prices of food products in Dominican markets have declined, others increased in the wake of the damage caused by the floods of the two storms Isaías and Laura.
Jamaica: Strawberry farmers to benefit from $5 million allocation
The island’s major strawberry farmers are to benefit from an allocation of $5 million to assist them in the growth and development of the crop for the 2020/21 season under the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries’ Production Incentive Programme (Ministry communication, 4 September). Consultant Agronomist in Charge of Protected Agriculture at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Webster McPherson, said $3 million would go towards providing crop nutrition. “We’ll also be looking at pest and disease management assistance to the farmers to the tune of about $2 million,” Mr. McPherson said. There is tremendous potential for import substitution as local strawberries are now being embraced by purchasers because they taste better and have a longer shelf life. Under the $1.6-billion Production Incentive Programme, strawberry is among nine crops being targeted for increased production. The others include ginger, hot peppers, Irish potatoes, onion, sweet yam, dasheen and cassava. Over 4,000 farmers are expected to benefit from the programme, directly and indirectly.
Fiji Ministry opens largest nursery in the country
A nursery that could hold 360,000 seedlings worth about $70,000 has been opened by the Ministry of Agriculture in Sabeto, Nadi (The Fiji Times, 18 August). While launching the new facility, Minister for Agriculture Dr Mahendra Reddy said the nursery was the largest in the country. Dr Reddy said Government was strongly encouraging farmers to move towards becoming agricultural entrepreneurs. He added that in order for the agricultural sector to grow in Fiji, there was a need to grow the market. “We want to bring market signal to the farmer, as we have done here with Agro-Marketing Authority and also other exporters around the country, who are providing market signals to the farmer.”
Fiji: Agriculture Ministry to launch candy made from pawpaw and pineapple
In an attempt to minimise pawpaw and pineapple flooding the market, the Fijian Government will soon be launching candy products made from these fruits (Fresh Plaza, 19 August). Minister for Agriculture Dr Mahendra Reddy said at the moment local supermarkets were selling dried fruits and dried candies manufactured abroad, but that would change as the country would now have the capacity to produce its own as part of product development by the Agriculture Ministry.