Empowering Farmers through Knowledge

From Orchard to Prosperity: The Avocado Boom Revolutionizing Rwanda’s Agriculture

On January 12, the sunlit afternoon witnessed a groundbreaking event as a refrigerated container laden with 22.5 tonnes of avocados embarked on a journey to Dubai, UAE, symbolizing the booming success of Rwanda’s avocado industry. Valued at over $50,000 (approx. Rwf60 million), this export is a testament to the rapid transformation of avocados from a simple crop to a cash cow, driving economic growth and prosperity in the heart of Africa.

Unleashing the Green Gold Rush

Avocados, once relegated to subsistence farming, have now emerged as Rwanda’s green gold. The demand for these creamy fruits on the international market far surpasses the available supply, reaching a staggering 30 to 40 percent deficit, according to Robert Rukundo, Managing Director of Almond Green Farm and Chairperson of Horticulture Exporters Association of Rwanda (HEAR).

“This is a major crop, which has registered higher growth in terms of performance, meaning that it is a moneymaking commodity. It is a tree you can plant and does not demand much care, but it gives you yield every season,” explains Rukundo, underlining the extraordinary financial potential of avocado farming.

A Transformative Decade: Avocado’s Journey to Green Gold

Just over a decade ago, avocados were seen as a crop for rural sustenance, lacking appeal for commercial cultivation. The shift began in 2008 when some Rwandans observed the success of avocado exports in countries like Kenya. Fast forward to 2023, avocados are no longer a government-led value chain but a thriving, private sector-driven industry. With over 20 exporters, the avocado sector has become a focal point of economic growth, generating revenue exceeding $6.3 million, a stark contrast to the $440,000 earned annually around 2013.

Jean-Marie Vianney Munyaneza, Export Services Division Manager at the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), reflects on this transformative journey. “Today, I am very happy that we are no longer putting a lot of money into this value chain; it is now a private sector-led value chain. You can see that farmers are investing in this value chain themselves, by buying seedlings, fertilisers, and other inputs,” he remarks, highlighting the organic growth and sustainability of the avocado industry.

Export-Grade Excellence: The Hass and Fuerte Connection

Not all avocado varieties cultivated in Rwanda meet export standards. According to NAEB, the Hass and Fuerte varieties stand out as the most popular choices for export. This strategic selection ensures that Rwanda’s avocados not only meet international quality requirements but also command competitive prices in global markets.

Local Flourishing, Global Dominance: Projecting the Future

Munyaneza projects a robust future for the avocado sector, estimating a continued upward trajectory in exports. With an expected reach of 16,000 tonnes per year by 2030, generating around $40 million, investments in the sector promise sustainable growth, further solidifying Rwanda’s position in the global avocado market.

The Avocado Renaissance: A Decade of Transformation

The resurgence of avocado farming in Rwanda can be traced back to 2008 when Rwandans explored successful avocado exports in neighboring countries. The government’s strategic investments, including distributing export-grade Hass seedlings sourced from Kenya, kick-started the avocado revolution. Today, avocado farming is not just a government-backed initiative; it’s a thriving private sector-led movement with farmers actively investing in the crop.

Sowing Prosperity: Avocado Farming Beyond Profit

Avocado farming is not just a financially rewarding venture; it’s also eco-friendly, ensuring that the land on which it is grown serves generations to come. Darlaine Gatesi, managing a four-hectare avocado farm, attests to the crop’s worthiness. “Avocado farming is a financially rewarding business,” she declares, emphasizing its positive impact on the environment and future generations.

Global Avocado Outlook: A Fruitful Future

The global demand for avocados is on an upward trajectory, driven by health-conscious consumers seeking the fruit’s nutritional benefits. The International Trade Centre (ITC) estimates that global avocado imports were worth $7.1 billion in 2019. The United States and the European Union are expected to remain the main importers, with an estimated 40 percent and 31 percent of global imports, respectively, by 2030.

As Rwanda’s avocado industry continues to flourish, the journey from a simple crop to a cash cow signifies not just economic prosperity but also a sustainable future for generations to come. The avocado boom is a beacon of Rwanda’s agricultural success, proving that sometimes, the simplest crops can yield the most profitable results.

Original article was written by Emmanuel Ntirenganya

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