The rising star
“My vision for Njombe region is to produce good quality avocados using the best agricultural practices. But to achieve this we need infrastructure and to ensure that farmers increase their profits,” said Frank Msigwa.
Frank is the director and founder of Frank Horticulture, a small avocado and fresh produce exporter from Njombe. The region, part of the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, is a hilly and fertile land in the south-western part of the country. Altitude and cool temperatures make it the perfect place for avocado production.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘green gold of Tanzania’, avocados are the new rising star in the country. While only some seven years ago domestic production was close to zero, the crop has now become a key export for Tanzania, making the country one of the leading African avocado exporters, preceded only by South Africa and Kenya.
Avocado growers and exporters struggle to access international markets because their produce often does not meet quality standards, buyer requirements and product regulations.
It is a different story for Frank, however.
His company is doing well. Frank Horticulture is not only exporting its avocados to large regional buyers in Kenya but also contributing to trade within the East African Community (EAC).
New opportunities for Frank Horticulture emerged last year, when the company began receiving support through the European Union (EU) - East African Community (EAC) Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP).
“The trade fair offered a unique opportunity to network with international buyers, who agreed to buy our products,” said Frank.
He reminisced about his participation in the international trade fair Fruit Logistica 2020 where he met interested buyers from the European market.
In addition, attending the Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards training has been particularly helpful for Frank. It trained farmer groups, linked through the supply chain to exporters. The hands-on training aimed at increasing awareness about the importance of internationally recognised certifications, and preparing farmers groups to become eligible for the certifications.
Frank has remained an active part of these efforts to connect farmers with exports to create a win-win situation. Just last year his company provided a platform to 500 farmers, representing multiple farmer groups from the Njombe region, to receive a similar training on Global GAP certification.
The will to export to the European market is strong. An example is the Njombe South Highlands Development Association (NSHDA) that also connected its farmer members to this training. As a result, about 5,000 farmers joined forces and hired an agronomist to work with the association. Tapping into the interest shown by those engaged in agribusiness in the area, the farmers from NSHDA collaborated with agricultural input suppliers and solar energy suppliers for irrigation systems.
It is now just a matter of months before Frank and the farmers apply for Global GAP certification so that they can start selling to the European market.
Support from EAC MARKUP
With support from MARKUP, Frank has also learnt about quality requirements, pest management, and disease identification. Now offering products of a higher quality, Frank Horticulture has managed to re-invest some of the profits in a small pack house.
The Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) is a regional development initiative conceived by the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat in partnership with the European Union (EU) and implemented by various agencies, including the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
MARKUP aims to increase exports of agribusiness and horticultural products and promote regional integration and access to the European market by addressing specific challenges that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Trade and Investment Support Institutions (TISIs) and policy-makers face in accessing regional and EU export markets.