For avocado consumers in China, quality remains the main influencer of choice in their purchase decisions. The populous market also presents a stringent set of regulations that new players must meet before getting the nod to start shipments.
Fruit exporter Kakuzi CEO Chris Flowers shared these revelations during the release of the company’s third Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report for 2021.
ESG is a framework upon which firms develop and deploy their sustainability initiatives, including identifying, assessing and managing risks that come from social and environmental issues affecting their supply chains.
The Nairobi Securities Exchange and London Stock Exchange cross-listed company started shipment of avocado fruits to China market this year.
“One of our major highlights during the year was the journey to access the China market,” said Mr Flowers.
As the company realized, China’s fruit market is “very advanced as far as the consumption of agricultural commodities” including the range of superfoods that Kakuzi trades in such as avocados.
In September, Kakuzi received a pre-shipment nod from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service to ship its second fresh avocado consignment to China this year.
“The regulatory entry process was stringent, and the consumers are incredibly discerning and quality conscious. However, we were up to the task and committed to maintaining the Kakuzi quality consistency for all our exports to China, among other markets. I am hopeful that this will work to reveal just how responsible value chains can grow communities,” Mr Flowers said.
Authorities in Kenya project that China market would grow to about 100,000 tonnes in the next few years. Alongside Kenya, China imports avocados from Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Chile.
Kakuzi, which trades on the agricultural segment counter on the NSE becomes the first company to release its ESG report this year.
In 2021, farmers sourced over 29,000 quality Hass avocado variety seedlings from Kakuzi. The firm runs the Avocado Smallholder scheme that has 3,500 registered farmers.
During the reporting period, avocado growers received Kes57.9 million and access to the growing international market for the green fruit.
The firm’s smallholder scheme empowers farmers with knowledge and skills in avocado production. It also provides fruit maturity testing for farmers for free to help maintain quality while enhancing the farmers’ income.
In the year under focus, Kakuzi became one of the first companies in the region to put in place an operational grievance mechanism.
Dubbed SIKIKA, the non-judicial process offers a mechanism for receiving, investigating, and addressing Kakuzi-related complaints from the communities, workers, and farmers who supply avocados through the firm’s economic empowerment scheme.
The company has also put in place an Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee led by former Attorney-General Prof Githu Muigai to ensure proper handling of human rights-related matters.
“To make resilience, agility, and sustainability a reality, Kakuzi was able to mainstream transparency in how we conduct our business to protect Human Rights across the different divisions of the Company,” said Mr Flowers.
The firm, which also cultivates blueberries, macadamia, tea, livestock, and commercial forestry, has been steering a beekeeping programme, training self-help groups in Murang’a County as part of support to diversify the community’s income.