Rwanda horticulture export prospects high with UAE deal

Rwanda horticulture export prospects high with UAE deal

Rwanda’s horticultural products have started being traded in the Carrefour hypermarket thanks to a deal between the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) and this United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based retail firm.

The partnership between NAEB and Carrefour is seen as a key enabler for Rwandan producers of fresh products, exporters and the country’s economy at large, according to Rwandafresh— the brand for Rwanda’s fresh products including fruits and vegetables.

Carrefour hypermarket and supermarkets operate in 30 countries across The Middle East, Africa and Asia. With its 320 stores, it serves more than 750,000 customers daily.

Carrefour says it operates different store formats, as well as multiple online offerings to meet the growing needs of its diversified customer base.

“We’ve just started the New Year with an opportunity for our fresh agriexport producers & exporters. We secured a one-year deal with Carrefour hypermarket. We will be supplying to this wide UAE retailing company with passion fruits, apple banana, pineapple and avocado,” Rwandafresh Brand wrote on Twitter on Sunday, January 3.

Rwandafresh Brand, which is under NAEB, said that the first shipment to Carrefour on Sunday includes avocado and passion fruits.

According to NAEB, the shipment consisted of 1,600 kilogrammes (1.6 tonnes) of which 1,500 kilogrammes were avocadoes and 100 kilogrammes of passion fruits.

“That was a sample to gauge the appreciation levels of their customers for our products,” NAEB Communication officer, Pie Ntwari told The New Times, noting the volumes are likely to increase later.

He said that this is one-year-contract that can be renewed.

He explained that the exports are expected to be made weekly, pointing out that they will depend on the purchase order from Carrefour based on its demands and sales statistics.

“So, we have hope that it will be a long-term market,” he said.

For prices, he said they are fair based on the international market.

On the implications of the deal, Ntwari said that the country has been exporting horticultural products to UAE, Asia and Europe among other parts of the world, “but we had no market to which we are directly connected [ready market]”.

“But, Carrefour is a potential retailing shop that will be [buying and] selling our products to different buyers,” he said, adding that it has major markets in countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Oman.

“It means we are going to see an increase in production and export volumes as well as revenues, which will have an impact on farmers, exporters, and the economy at large,” he said of the implications of the deal.

Commenting on which exporters will get the rights to export fresh produce to the UAE, Ntwari said that all exporters will have equal rights.

However, he pointed out that exporters with high-quality products have an upper hand.


Market diversification critical

Robert Rukundo, the Chairman of Horticulture Exporters Association of Rwanda told The New Times the deal is one of the strategies to expand the market for “our products, which is largely traded in the UK and European Union.

Runkundo noted that having a wide market base enables one to have other people to supply to when some cancel demands, referring to supply disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Carrefour is a big chain supermarket. That is a good thing for the Rwandan exporters and the Rwandan farmers…with the deal, we are dealing directly with supermarket, so the prices are and revenues are likely to go up as there is no middleman,” he said.

Rwanda exported 31,788 tonnes of horticulture commodities (vegetables, fruits, and flowers) which generated $28.7 million (about Rwf27 billion) during the fiscal year 2019/20, indicate figures from the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).

This represents an increase of 5 per cent compared to $27.1 million generated from over 37,343 tonnes of horticulture exports in 2018/19.

According to NAEB, despite Covid-19, Rwanda fetched good prices for her products in 2020 thanks to government support through steady cargo flights.

Such factors contributed to the relatively good performance of the horticulture sector in 2019/2020.

Rwanda targets $130 million from horticulture exports by 2024.

Among the strategies to achieve this target, NAEB says, include increasing investment to ensure production of quality fresh products to compete favourably on the international market.