Kate Wambugu, Director and Wambugu Apple Ambassador addressing investors during the launch in Nairobi

Wambugu Apples unveils state-of-the-art grading facility to combat post-harvest losses

In a significant move to address post-harvest losses and curtail exploitation of farmers by brokers, Apples’ grower and exporter company, Wambugu Apples, has introduced a modern fruit grading and packing warehouse in Nairobi’s Infinity Industrial Park.

The packing line operates a capacity of 10-15 tonnes per hour, around the clock, to meet the demand of a growing fruit market. It can also grade and pack a range of fruits including avocados, mangoes, passion fruit, peaches, pears, apricots, and tomatoes, giving farmers a lease of life.

It will grade and pack apple fruits from 2,500 farmers growing the Wambugu Apple variety in Kenya. The apple is also grown in over 36 other African countries, in the Caribbean and Asia.

Ms Kate Wambugu, director and Wambugu Apple ambassador, noted that post-harvest losses remain a big challenge for fruit farmers, which affects their returns. Lack of a ready market also means many apple farmers battle huge losses.

Apples at the grading and pack house facility

investment, made possible through a $500,000 debt financing from Diamond Trust Bank, is a response to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s estimation that 20-40 per cent of fruits and vegetables in developing countries are lost to post-harvest due to technological gaps and poor handling practices.

This packhouse, said Ms Wambugu, will address these issues head-on, providing a platform for efficient and effective post-harvest management. The new machine will grade the apples to suit international markets. The pack-house also has cold rooms to aid in the shelf-life of the fruits spelling.

“We have many apple farmers, though having favourable climate conditions to grow apples and realise good harvests, have been having challenges on where to take their produce. With this machine, we are now entering a new chapter of grading the fruits with precision to suit local and international markets,” said Ms Wambugu during the launch at the Infinity Industrial Park, Nairobi recently.

“We want to continue connecting local farmers with a ready market.”

Apple farming in Kenya has gained popularity in recent years due to the high demand for the fruit.

It presents many opportunities including its contribution to climate-resilient farming amid harsh realities of climate change, regenerating landscapes and storing carbon benefiting from the carbon markets, and transforming farmers’ livelihoods among others.

In 2021, the global production of apples was estimated at 93 million tonnes, with China producing 49 percent of the total. Kenya’s production is at 118 tonnes(an equivalent of 0.00012 percent) during the same year.

Apple farmers across Africa looking at the grading process at the Launch of Wambugu Apples grading and pack house in Nairobi

Kenya imported apples worth $11.8million in 2022. This only illustrates the high demand for apples that many farmers are not meeting locally and for the agripreneurs that is a good opportunity to invest in.

Matthew Njenga, chairman of Kenya Apple Growers and Exporters Association (KAGEA), stressed the facility’s commitment to environmentally conscious farming practices.

Beyond grading, Wambugu Apples aims to become a hub for value addition, with plans to introduce new machinery for this purpose by September.

“We want to go beyond mere grading. Wambugu Apples aims to become a hub for value addition, exploring opportunities to process and package fruit-based products,” noted Mr Njenga. “We are planning to bring in a new machine by September this year that will be used for value addition.”

Kenya’s apple production, though modest compared to global leaders like China, presents lucrative opportunities, as evidenced by the $11.8 million worth of apple imports in 2022.

Mr Njenga called for international partnerships to train professionals serving the apple sector, boosting productivity, and ensuring sustainable growth.

Moi University, actively involved in apple farming, plans to expand its acreage and venture into value addition. Dr Humphrey Njuguna, chairperson of Moi University Council, sees the potential for apple farming becoming a significant economic driver, echoing the success story of the tea sector.

“If we go full throttle with the apple farming concept the way tea was introduced in the early years of this country, we can easily sustain our university with it. We intend to plant 1000 acres and venture into value addition. We are also planning to launching an additional 10,000 hectares to attract out-growers to boost farming of the fruits,” said Dr Njuguna.

“Apple farming will soon become the next gold in this country if we get it right,” he added.

Wambugu Apples’ annual export of 5,000 apple seedlings and its foray into agro-tourism to share agronomic practices across Africa further showcase the company’s commitment to the broader agricultural community.

Dr Betty Kibaara, Director of the Food Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation, in a moving account of how she fell victim to market dynamics in 2020 when she ventured into onion farming, stressed the need for supportive policies and market dynamics to benefit smallholder farmers. She pointed out the importance of diversifying crops to high-value options for transforming Kenya’s food systems.

Dr Betty Kibaara, Director, of the Food Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation at the launch

 “We need to have friendly policies in place to enable farmers to pursue farming profitably and to also incentivise investments from the private sector,” she said.

 “As you launch the grading line today, we hope that you will maintain the commitment of training farmers and guiding them on the journey towards organic farming.”

Mckinsey Global Institute has estimated that agricultural production in Africa could rise by $140 billion annually by 2030 if the continent replaces 20 percent of its low-value crops(cereals) with higher-value crops such as tree crops.

Facebook Comments Box
Source:By Clifford Akumu