The National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) in collaboration with IDH project, flagged off the first reefer container shipment of avocados by sea. IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, is an organisation (Foundation) that works with businesses, financiers, governments and civil society to realise sustainable trade in global value chains and facilitates private sector access to international markets. The shipment alternative, diverting from airfreight to sea freight seeks a long-term business partnership with international buyers.

Over 23 metric tonnes of avocados were exported to Dubai. The pilot 23 metric tonnes contingent cargo to Dubai is an opportunity window for Rwanda to reach more international markets. This shipment, if successful, will be a window of opportunity for Rwanda to expand its markets to other EU countries, as sea freight logistics is a solution for cheaper and sufficient competitive transport. This historic horticulture shipment from Kigali to a customer in Dubai contained 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. 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 Horticultural 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. HortInvest is a five-year project (2018-2022) that is implemented by a consortium of five organizations to support the private sector companies to meet domestic, regional, and international export market demands and develop the horticulture sector in Rwanda. This sea freight trial on Friday was part of HortInvest. “In Rwanda we started with supporting exporters of fruits and vegetables. We help farmers and exporters to meet standards needed by international markets. That is how we facilitated Rwandan first avocado exporting by sea freight shipment,” Said Sylvie, the IDH country manager. Over the past five years IDH supported the Rwandan private sector with standard fresh produce to leverage international markets and helped to build storage facilities for horticulture exporters at the Special Economic zone through the HortInvest project.

“The freight shipment by seas will also reduce carbon footprint. The first sea freight shipment was through Mombasa port to Dubai and next sea freight shipmpment will go to the Netherlands. We helped in financial cost and preparation of needed quality avocado produce to be exported, she said. The shipment is part of efforts to diversify export logistics routes in order to increase Rwandan benefits from international markets. This pilot shipment is in line with Rwanda’s Agriculture Transformation Strategic Plan, NAEB said. 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. 

Dr Martin Koper Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands underscored: “The trial shipment is the beginning of a 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 the public and private sector”.

“Flying Swans aims to develop cool logistics corridors in multiple countries to unlock the potential of the local horticulture sector.

We’re delighted that we can serve the sector in Rwanda as well. We will continue to seek opportunities to improve the efficiency and (cost-) effectiveness of sea freight export shipments from Rwanda,” said Marcel Biemond, Program Director Flying Swans which also partnered in the avocado shipment activity. Flying Swans is a cross-industry coalition that develops agro-logistics projects in emerging economies with the aim of fostering SGDimpact while supporting the Dutch main port/green port sector.

In the sea freight trial Flying Swans coordinates all cool logistics activities after stuffing the container until its final destination.

Exporters welcome the initiative
“We welcome the support in sea freight shipment. It was really needed. It is a solution because airplanes carry few quantities of exports while ships transport more than that. The freight cost is also going to decrease by half, “said Latifah Mugwaneza, who exported avocados.