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Kenya: Mango exports on the riseWednesday, March 30, 2016 > 09:39:41
Kenya registered a significant increase in mango production across the 2015/2016 season compared to the previous season, witnessing an increase of 27% on season-to-season basis. Mangos From Kenya reported 30% jump in exports, largely attributed to their intense continuous training that guides farmers to plant and maintain mangoes professionally in order to meet stringent quality standards at the destination markets.
“At the moment we are directing 90% of our earnings to our farmer care program which is a rigorous project intended to ensure that farmers in our network get it 100% right on what kind of mangoes the export market need. This is very important to us because we can only claim to be in business when we are giving the customers what they want”, says Louis Matheka, Sales Manager of Mangos From Kenya
Kenya's mango season starts officially in November-December and runs all the way to March-April each year. The country still produces some mangoes outside this period though in small quantities, best for clients who may not be necessarily interested in huge volumes.
According to Lydia Mueni, an agronomist with Mangos From Kenya company, statistics from International Trade Centre (ITC) indicate that Kenya has seen over 400% increase in mango exports over a period of the last 5 years, with a comparable trend being seen between 2007 and 2012.
"The bulk of our exports are to the established Middle East market countries such as United Arab Emirates that currently takes a 56% share of our exports, followed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and then Qatar in that order," says Mueni.
With the majority of Kenya mangoes for export being produced by small scale farmers, Mueni adds that the company's production priority at the moment is to get smallholder farmers producing good quality fruits, devoid of fruit flies which had previously wreaked havoc on the Kenyan mango crop. As a result, farmers too are benefiting from increased yields and a higher quality crop that leads to an increase in exports.
One such farmer is Nthenge Nzau, who confirms that his net income has increased upon the implementation of environmentally friendly measures to manage fruit flies and produce pest-free mangoes.
According to the farmer, this has not only helped increase his harvest but also made it possible for his mangoes to be exported to countries that previously shunned Kenyan mangoes due to weevils.
“The quality of Kenya mangoes is certainly exceptional during the peak season and the just concluded season was no different.”, says Mueni. “ We understand though that many mango producers and exporters in Kenya were slightly affected by the effects of the El Niño rains experienced in late 2015,” Mueni acknowledges.
Mangos From Kenya confirms that it was not affected though because their core regions of mango production like the Eastern region were safe from the wrath of El Niño rains. Still on matters of quality, Mangos From Kenya is already in talks with development agencies who have expressed interest to get involved in supporting mango farmers from Kenya to produce the best mangoes that will be accepted across the world markets.
The important region especially for the export market is the Eastern region whose soil and climate make the perfect combination for mango production. The main mango varieties produced in Kenya are the Apple and the Kent variety alongside the local variety Ngowe. Apple mango is the most popular followed by Kent mango.
“As a company we are lucky to have most of our farms in the Eastern region because this is the home of Kenya's best mangoes,” says Abdul Aziz, the sourcing coordinator and quality manager at Mangos From Kenya.
Through the 2015/2016 season, Kenya exported approximately 26,000 metric tonnes of mangos. This figure will continue to rise as more farmers come in and more markets open up. There is increased interest for Kenyan mangoes, a trend that is already giving way to new markets.
"We are seeing a very encouraging trend of growth in our intra Africa exports in countries such as Tanzania, Somali and South Africa. We hope to grow this particular market in the coming years while also setting our eyes on steadily increasing the exports to the United Kingdom, France and Germany which currently receive a relatively small portion of Kenya mangoes exports," asserts Mueni.
The Middle East is an important market because the consumer in this country is already aware of the high quality of the Kenyan mango. Other regions are also beginning to discover the secret of Kenyan mangoes and this is evidenced by the increasing interest from established buyers in regions such as Europe which in fact consumes a huge portion of Kenya's fresh produce.
Safety is the heart of any fresh produce business and packaging definitely is a core item of safety. The exportation of mangos from Kenya is overseen by the Agriculture, Fish and Food Authority (AFFA) whose mandate is to ensure that all produce exported from Kenya meets the strict safety standards that have been stipulated at the global level and ratified by the Kenyan government.
Transport continues to be a challenge mainly because these fruits come from regions far out of the capital Nairobi where packaging is done. This is why companies like Mangos from Kenya are holding discussions with development bodies to work on supply chain optimization and structures for optimal movement of fruits from local farms rooted deep in Kenyan villages, to the city.
Transportation is part of the larger picture of the partnerships that the company is seeking to establish as a core initiative to support Kenya's mango farmers.
As Kenya's mango producers wrap up the current mango season and swiftly train their eyes on preparations for the next season, the bells of better things to come are already ringing. And companies like Mangos From Kenya are at the center of this exciting journey whose conclusive destination will dawn when every mango farmer in Kenya is capable of easily producing 100% quality mangos that will match market dynamics. With the right partnerships and focus, the next season is no doubt a nice story waiting to be narrated by happy farmers and satisfied customers.