RWANDA – Garden Fresh, a Rwandan company specialising in export of fresh produce, has opened the country’s first privately owned packhouse located at the Prime Economic Zone in Masoro, Northern Rwanda.

The facility, built with support from the HortInvest and IDH project, is aimed to reduce post-harvest loss, increase farmers income and generate new employment opportunities.

Packhouses provide a critical link between farm and market aggregating produce from numerous farms and preparing it for delivery according to strict quality standards.

Valued at US$1 million, the 600 square metre packhouse has the holding capacity of 25-30 metric tons of fresh produce, and according to the company, will provide employment to some 300 Rwandan women and youth.

“Building the capacity of local businesses to engage in export markets is needed to build the local economy.

“Having a packhouse ensures that Garden Fresh is able to provide quality produce and quantity that meet its clients’ requirements,” said Sylvie Nirere, the IDH country manager in Rwanda.

Garden Fresh manages its own farms and works with out-growers to grow, harvest and deliver fruits and vegetables, primarily French beans, passion fruits, chilies and avocados.

Prior to realization of the project, the organization had to process their produce through the only standard packhouse in Rwanda run by the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), which has capacity limitations.

In combination with the lack of a cold truck, the company couldn’t maintain a cold chain from the farms to Kigali, which is a standard requirement for the export market.

Cold chain facilities, like the new pack house, will increase the percentage of exportable produce and increase efficiencies in processing post-harvest activities.

The new pack house, combined with a cold storage facility for out-growers and two refrigerated trucks is set to decrease post-harvest losses by 30 percent and vastly improve quality, reports New Times Rwanda.

Further to that, it will allow Garden Fresh to achieve BRC certification and ensure that quality standards can be achieved.

Garden Fresh is currently in negotiations with a retailer in the United Kingdom for fresh produce.

The packhouse came at the right time as the country is targeting to increase annual horticulture export revenues from the current US$42 million to US$130 million in 2024, according to NAEB figures.

In order to achieve the national goal, you have to increase everything – production, transportation, marketing, export – by three to four times.

“So, this facility is very critical in achieving that future goal, and it will lead to employment creation and more income to farmers,” said GB Banjara, the HortInvest project manager.

The horticultural sector is key in Rwanda as it provides nearly 10% of the national agricultural GDP.

In the fiscal year 2021/2022, horticulture commodities accounted for 6.7% of total agro-export revenues with an increase of vegetable and fruit export values of 63% and 87%, respectively.

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