Enabling Rwandan fresh produce exporters access international markets

We have seen that COVID-19 is leading the disruption of global supply chain flows, and due to  limited shelf life, fresh produce supply chains are less adaptable to supply chain disruptions. A particular case in point is the Rwandan export-oriented horticultural sector. In response to Covid-19, Rwanda’s borders were closed on 20 March, with direct implications on incoming and outgoing passenger flights. As Rwanda’s relatively small horticultural export sector isn’t serviced by cargo flights (cargo is booked onto cargo space on passenger flights), this has significantly restricted access to market for fresh produce exporters. Disruptions have the potential to impact 2,000 jobs and 3,600 smallholder farmer livelihoods in the Rwandan horticultural sector.

To help ensure that the fresh produce can be exported, IDH, together with export companies and the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), has facilitated the running of weekly fresh produce cargo flights to Europe through RwandAir.

Friday 17th April, a flight as part of this plan departed to take almost 32,000 KG of fresh produce such as green beans, chillies and habanero from nine different Rwandan exporters. The route is Kigali, Rwanda to Brussels, Belgium to London Gatwick, UK before returning to Kigali, Rwanda.

A first flight had left Kigali on 3 April, however after this first cargo flight, it was noted that exporters had more volume than the cargo flight could take. Therefore, IDH, NAEB and other stakeholders have been in discussion with RwandAir to operate a second flight per week.

Once the airplane has delivered its cargo, RwandAir will need to return it to Rwanda. The precondition for these flights to continue is that there is enough southbound (EU – Rwanda) cargo secured. IDH is therefore in contact with a number of logistics companies to help fill the southbound cargo space.

In Rwanda, IDH is leading the development of horticultural export value chains under the HortInvest program (funded by the Dutch Embassy in Rwanda). We are working closely with several Rwandan exporters to support improvements in technical and management capacity, supply chain management, and to meet export market requirements. Each of these exporters are in turn sourcing from smallholder farmer cooperatives across Rwanda. Smallholder farmer sourcing linked to export value chain development is hoped to contribute to enhanced resilience of Rwandan food systems for the future.

IDH would also like to request any companies that are looking for cargo space on southbound (EU to Rwanda) flights to make contact with Kebba Colley

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