Grant Brooke, co-founder and executive director of B2B food distribution
company, Twiga Foods has opened up via Twitter on why exporting Avocado did
not work for Twiga Foods seven years ago.
In a thread of 12 tweets, Brooke confessed that as a startup they were trying to
figure out their export market, local market, and a hybrid of both. At the time, it
looked like Avocados had quick cashflows. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Here are the 10 reasons why the export failed;
It is hard to control picking time –
Avocados ripen depending on when they are picked, so according to Brook’s experience, if they are not picked at the same time, they are going to show up in various stages of between 15-21 days, some will rot and get rejected.
In their first trial, all the Fuerte avocados were going to Dubai, so they rented a packhouse at the airport for a few days.
You can’t ship Avocados that fell –
In this case, you need to either have a tool or climb the tree and pick them. If you do get some that fell, they ripen faster because of the bruise, so it will all rot.
Everything can go bad while on transit –
When some fruit starts to ripen around other fruit that hasn’t ripened it releases ethylene… that lets all its fruit friends known “hey! It’s time to start ripening (which means rotting)” so everything starts to go bad while in transit.
Know where to source from –
While admitting that these mistakes happened before his life crash course on fruit as he led Twiga next several years, Brook says they Sourced from smallholders and brokers topped up the rest.
Unfortunately…like 70% were rotted on the seas.
Great Packaging –
Packaging matters, and due to having great packaging, that became the basis for the Twiga brand today! “That was about the only positive thing they (buyers) said about our avocado shipment. I think they paid for 50% of the value, which was probably kind.” Said Brooke.
Bad Reputation. –
The Avocado story out here is not as sweet as the fruit my taste. For instance, many ask, why does Kenya get lower avocado prices than the rest of the world? Also, these days, “…there are hundreds of kinds of fools like we were trying to get into the business shipping bad fruit, so it has a bad reputation”
Complicated crop to have a smallholder supply base and export (though possible) –
If I was doing the avos business again I would make sure I control my production and set a brand in the market (this is what Kakuzi does well)
Quality Control –
It’s clearly a great business, and global demand will keep exploding, but I think we should be focusing on >10 ha farms for quality control here.
Licenses, Insurance etc.–
With all the lessons learnt, this factor was also major in the export business – There are more stringent measures on fruits and vegetables and times this discourages many exporters would be. Read more here
Don’t Lie to yourself, when it’s not working, Move on! –
Today I kind of proudly admit to failing at 90% of what we try, key is taking big bets quickly, learning, and not lying to yourself when something is not working so you can move on… I call this “kill your babies” though my coworkers asked me
to find a nicer phrase.