CBI
CBI
Fruitful West Africa

The fruits of their labour

Supermarkets and greengrocers nowadays offer an amazing range of indigenous and exotic fruits and vegetables. In West Africa, fresh fruit and vegetables is a very promising export sector, which is why CBI has singled it out for an Export Development and Export Promotion Programme aimed at capitalising on the growing market in the EU.

Fruitful West Africa

In a business case, CBI has identified trends, analysed the value chain, studied the competition, assessed the risks and defined a programme that divides into three projects: mangoes from Senegal, pineapples from Ghana, and a regional component that includes Mali, Benin and Burkina Faso, to increase the programme’s impact and efficiency and spread the risks. A six-member programme team, headed at CBI by Regional Manager for Africa, Peter van Gilst, includes local expert Souleye Diouf and external experts Gary Tomlins and Piet Schotel.

Demanding business

Gary Tomlins once owned a large farm in France and has extensive hands-on experience of the farming business. He explains that he and Piet Schotel are not aid workers, but practical people from the fresh fruit and vegetable industry who are well-placed to advise CBI. “We understand this fickle and demanding business. My experience is in supermarket supply and pre-packed products, while Piet brings expertise on the marketing and logistics of larger volumes, traded mainly by sea freight.”

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On a mission to Senegal and Mali, external expert Gary Tomlins (left) pictured with Matar Ndoye, president of a group of small farmers in the Niayes area on the coast of Senegal growing Kent mangoes, a favourite variety in European supermarkets.

Fruitful West Africa

In the context of the programme they select existing and emerging businesses, guide them through the programme to produce higher quality products, and improve their logistics. As soon as they are confident an emerging company is good enough, they introduce it to buyers, usually through the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin. Then, as the dialogue between parties continues, their role diminishes.

Fruitful West Africa

While he sees ample opportunities, Tomlins concedes that there are also challenges. “The biggest one is getting sufficient production of the right quality. Marketing discipline is also important – you can’t have different maturity levels of mangoes in the same crate, for example. In addition to competent managers, agronomists, skilled pickers and logistics experts, companies need finance so they can invest in cold storage and trucks.”

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Jeanne Marie Sarr is responsible for export preparation and management of organic and fair trade bananas. Her employer, Aprovag in Tambacounda in Senegal, is a cooperative located on the Upper Gambia River, with a turnover of almost half a million euros.

Fruitful West Africa

Tomlins is convinced that there’s plenty of room for synergy with other donors and organisations. “This programme covers a large part of West Africa so it’s a fantastic opportunity for CBI to get the wider donor community involved. We’ve already found some really good companies, competent traders and good production sites, and we want to take them to Fruit Logistica next February.”

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