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Rwandan first reefer container of avocados to be shipped by sea, opening huge opportunities for the country

KIGALI, 25 November 2022: Mr. Claude Bizimana, Chief Executive Officer of NAEB, Dr. Martin Koper, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Rwanda and Rwanda’s key horticulture partners flagged off the first reefer container shipment of Rwandan sustainably produced avocados this afternoon.

The pilot shipment is the result of a collaborative effort between the Rwandan government and partners, which include IDH, Flying Swans, and avocado exporters, as part of the "Investing in Horticulture Development in Rwanda" project (HortInvest), which is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rwanda to further develop Rwanda's horticulture sector.

This historic horticulture shipment from Kigali to Dubai contained 23 Metric Tons of avocados from eight Rwandan avocado export companies. Transitioning from airfreight export to sea route is expected to be one of the solutions to constantly rising transport logistics costs, which is one of the major concerns for horticulture exporters, limiting access to global markets.

Claude Bizimana, who officiated at the ceremony, stated that this shipment is part of efforts to diversify export logistics routes in order to increase Rwandan benefits from international markets.

"The shipment is in line with Rwanda's Agriculture Transformation Strategic Plan. It is part of a larger project aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Rwanda's horticulture products through the use of sea freight transport, allowing the sector to remain relevant in the international market by supplying larger volumes of high-quality product."

This shipment, if successful, will be a window of opportunity for Rwanda to expand its markets to EU countries, as sea freight logistics is a solution for cheaper and sufficient competitive transport.

The Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands underscored: “This is the beginning of revolutionary journey in the history of horticulture export in Rwanda. As such, this fits within the Netherlands policy to promote Sustainable Trade and Investment with Rwanda.It marks the beginning of a long term journey, which will require a joint effort from both public and private sector”.

IDH's Director of Inclusive Business Development, Kebba Colley, added“This is a milestone moment. If this pilot is successful in reducing carbon footprints and shipping costs to international markets, think about how many more global buyers Rwanda's horticulture sector now has access to. Opening new markets benefits and fundamentally changes the way the sector does business with international markets.”  

Faustin Mbundu, chairman of MFK Group, spoke on behalf of Rwandan horticulture exporters, applauding the government's efforts to diversify solutions that could assist industry players in overcoming long-standing challenges that were impeding export business.

"We pledge to assist our country whenever necessary to increase agribusiness revenue."

Aside from the fact that airfreight is becoming increasingly expensive, supply chains are fragile and untrustworthy. Furthermore, airfreight has a much higher environmental carbon footprint than sea freight.  The market is evolving toward more sustainable and cost-effective transportation chains. Sea freight is a critical component in making this opportunity a reality.

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