Rwanda launches second sea freight trial shipment

On 26 October 2023 at 09:57

In a historic occasion for the Rwandan avocado sector, Joan Wiegman, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Rwanda, stood alongside Claude Bizimana, the CEO of the National Agricultural Export Development Board, and key partners have flagged off the first reefer container trial shipment of avocado, to Europe via Rotterdam, marking the second shipments of Rwandan sustainably produced avocados.

Only for the fiscal year 2022-2023, Rwanda exported avocado over 3.2 million kilograms worth EUR. 6.2 million. This brings to a total of EUR 13 million worth of avocados that have been exported from Rwanda since 2018.

This pivotal pilot shipment is the tangible fruit of a harmonious collaboration between the Rwandan government and an array of partners, including the invaluable contributions of IDH. Not to be overlooked, two eminent export companies, SOUK and Garden Fresh, played significant roles, underlining their leadership in the industry.

All these combined efforts were woven together as part of the visionary "Investing in Horticultural Development in Rwanda" project, affectionately known as HortInvest.

This project, generously funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rwanda, is a profound commitment to the continued growth and prosperity of Rwanda’s horticulture sector.

The second wave of avocados, carefully sourced from over 1,200 farmers scattered across the picturesque Rwandan landscape and dispatched from Kigali to their eagerly awaiting customers in the Netherlands, holds an unprecedented historical significance.

It serves as a beacon of hope and a transformative moment within the horticulture industry, signalling an exploration of maritime routes as a potential solution to the incessant rise in transportation costs, a perpetual challenge faced by horticultural exporters that have hindered their access to the global market.

Commenting on the development, Joan Wiegman, Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands underscored: "The initiation of the second trial shipment marks a significant turning point in the history of horticultural exports from Rwanda to the European market. This aligns with the Netherlands’ policy to promote Sustainable Trade and Investment with Rwanda and signifies the start of a long-term journey that will require cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Mr Oluwaseun (Seun) Rasheed, CEO of SOUK Farms said that they used to rely solely on air freight, which limited their capacity.

He highlighted that Sea freight not only expands their reach but also significantly reduces logistics costs, enabling better farmgate prices for smallholder farmers, which he believes is the backbone of their success (increasing by over 20% on average).

“Embracing sea freight is a giant leap towards sustainability. It aligns with our commitment to environmental responsibility. This project creates a groundbreaking path to a greener, more prosperous future for exporters of Avocado from Rwanda, Smallholder Farmers in Rwanda, and contributes to the national agenda of increased exports of horticulture crops from Rwanda,” he said.

While presiding over the event, Bizimana emphasised that this second European shipment follows the successful one executed in Dubai last year.

This marks a vital milestone in the ongoing endeavours to diversify export logistics routes, with the strategic aim of bolstering Rwanda’s competitiveness in international markets.

"This second shipment is part of Rwanda’s Agriculture Transformation Strategic Plan, contributing to a larger project focused on increasing the competitiveness of Rwanda’s horticultural products," he stated.

Sylvie Nirere, Country Manager at IDH - Rwanda, emphasised, "This represents a significant milestone. If this second project successfully reduces carbon emissions and shipping costs for the European markets, it will open doors to numerous global buyers for Rwanda’s horticulture sector."

Beyond the economic considerations, the choice to explore maritime routes is well-founded. The rising costs of airfreight, coupled with fragile and unreliable supply chains, have necessitated a shift toward more sustainable and cost-effective transportation systems.

It’s a realisation that the higher environmental carbon footprint associated with airfreight is not tenable in an evolving market focused on sustainability and efficiency. Sea freight emerges as a critical component in bringing this vision to fruition.

About NAEB

The National Agricultural Export Development Board, abbreviated as "NAEB” is a commercial public institution established by law No 13/2017 of 14/04/2017 in the framework of regulating and promoting the development and growth of Agriculture and Livestock export commodities in Rwanda, as well marketing them worldwide. The head office of NAEB is located at Gikondo, KK 530 St, in the City of Kigali, the Capital of the Republic of Rwanda.

About IDH

IDH puts people, planet, and progress at the heart of trade by leveraging the power of markets to create better jobs, better incomes, a better environment, and gender equity for all. Headquartered in the Netherlands, IDH has around 380 employees globally, operating in 20 landscapes and 12 commodities and sourcing regions with over 1000 public and private partners.


HortInvest is a five-year project (2018-2022) implemented by a consortium of five organisations to support the private sector companies to meet domestic, regional, and international export market demands and develop the horticulture sector in Rwanda. This sea freight trial is part of HortInvest.

This struck can carry up to 20 tons to the port.
Sylvie Nirere, Country Manager at IDH - Rwanda, emphasised that the second sea freight shipment will open doors to numerous global buyers for Rwanda's horticulture sector.
Oluwaseun (Seun) Rasheed, CEO of SOUK Farms said that they used to rely solely on air freight, which limited their capacity.
Stakeholders in the avocado value chain affirm that sea freight is a dependable export route for avocados.