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First container with avocados from Rwanda arrives in Netherlands

Christian Fernsby |
On Monday 27 November, the first reefer container with avocados arrived at Avor in the Dutch town of Poeldijk.

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Present at this occasion were the Rwandan ambassador in the Netherlands, Olivier Jean Patrick Nduhungirehe, his colleague Jean Hugues Mukama, Avor´s Nico Spruijt and Tom Bouwman of Flying Swans.

“It’s quality fruit, and the avocados are suitable to be ripened for our clients”, says Nico Spruijt, Commercial Manager at Avor, who imported the avocados. This successful arrival is considered a breakthrough in the development of the horticultural sector in Rwanda, as this feat opens up the European market to that country.

The shipment is the result of a collaboration between various parties in Rwanda and the Netherlands.

The export company in Rwanda is SOUK Farms. During the sorting, packaging and loading of the avocados, it received assistance from local IDH experts as part of the HortInvest programme by the Dutch embassy in Rwanda.

The logistics process from the packing station to the port of Rotterdam was managed by Maersk, while the entire process was supervised and facilitated by Flying Swans.

“In its projects, Flying Swans always works together with local partners, local authorities and Dutch companies”, explains Marcel Biemond, Director at Flying Swans.

The container was transported by truck from Kigali, Rwanda, through Uganda, to the port in Mombasa, Kenya.

This route is called the Northern Corridor – Kenya’s objective is to also serve the countries in its hinterland of this corridor with the port at Mombasa.

Flying Swans is working on various developments for cold-chain logistics in this corridor, such as the transport of reefer containers by train to the port, and the development of consolidation centres for fruit, vegetables and at important logistics hubs.

“Developments of more efficient hinterland logistics such as these are important in making the fruit and vegetables export chains into the Netherlands more competitive”, says Nico Spruijt of Avor.

For some years, Rwanda has been exporting quickly increasing volumes of avocados to overseas destinations, especially in the Middle East.

This used to be done only by air freight, save for one test container that was shipped to Dubai in November of last year.

That test container, along with this shipment into the Netherlands, go to show that exporting avocados from Rwanda by sea is a feasible objective.

“We think that exporting avocados by sea is the only sustainable way, because it is cheaper and has far lower CO2 emissions compared to air freight”, says Flying Swans’ Marcel Biemond.

“We believe in the potential of African countries, and specifically Rwanda, of exporting fruit and vegetables, but it does require a solid organisation of the cold-chain logistics”, Marcel Biemond adds. As a result, that is exactly the objective of the Flying Swans programme, which is financed by Invest International.

“Invest International is moving proactively towards the development of sustainable and inclusive international trade”, explains Femke Bos, Director of Business Development, Strategy and IESG at Invest International.

“This project proves that Dutch companies are pioneers in the fruit and vegetable sectors, that they continue to spot new opportunities and that they are real entrepreneurs in contributing to infrastructure development on a global level”, Janine Luten, Director of GroentenFruitHuis, responds.

More avocados are expected to be imported from Rwanda into Europe in the years to come, and other products are also becoming increasingly suitable for the transition from air freight to sea transportation.

That is also one of the reasons why the Port of Rotterdam Authority supports the activities of Flying Swans.

“As the main European import harbour for fruit and vegetables, we are willing to make our services and our infrastructure available to promote these initiatives and to advance sustainability within the logistics process”, says Danny Levenswaard, Director of Breakbulk at the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

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