Ethiopia has carried out its first exports of avocados by train under a pilot project forming part of the National Cool Logistics Network.
An inauguration ceremony was held at Modjo Dry Port on Saturday to mark the loading of the first refrigerated containers bound for the European market.
The 24-tonne consignment was produced by dozens of farmers in the Koga area, south of Bahir Dar, and packed by KogaVeg Agricultural Development, owned by Belgian investor Durabilis.
After a 750km train journey, the fruit will be shipped from Djibouti to Europe, taking around 20 days.
“With reliable and competitive logistics solutions and lead times, we will be able to increase our export of fruit and vegetables rapidly in the coming years”, said Jan Michielsen, general manager of KogaVeg.
Train transport is not only cost effective, but also environmentally friendly compared to truck transport and therefore compatible with green logistics policies of European countries.
Ethiopian Transport Minister H E Dagmawit Moges said the project highlighted the government’s commitment to improving the country’s logistics infrastructure to support fruit and vegetable production and exports.
“The development of a National Cool Logistics Network is a strategic project and vital for many economic activities in Ethiopia”, she said.
The shipment marks a major milestone in the development of a cool logistics corridor by sea freight via the Port of Djibouti.
“This innovative cool supply chain Modjo-Djibouti-Europe for fruits, vegetables, flowers and other perishables will balance the trade and maximise the use of Ethio-Djibouti railway”, said Aboubakar Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority, and a member of the Cool Logistics Steering Committee overseeing the cool logistics projects in Ethiopia and Djibouti.
The steering committee is a collaboration between the governments of Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Netherlands to exploit Ethiopia’s agricultural potential and improving logistics with Djibouti’s maritime position and the Netherland’s world-class experience in agro-logistics.
Ethiopia has significant potential to develop its production and export of fresh produce. The country has plenty of available arable land, a perfect climate for horticulture and is strategically located between Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
By drastically reducing transport costs and lead times, investment in cool logistics could unlock the perishable industry.
“The fruit and vegetable sector in Ethiopia has the potential to become the next flower sector” said Tewodros Zewdie, executive director of the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association.
As well as increasing foreign currency earnings, unlocking the horticulture sector would create a positive impact on the country in a number of ways, such as providing higher income for farmers than traditional crops and improving the availability of nutritious food for local consumers.
In the Koga region alone, about 10,000 smallholder families own a farm that is suitable for growing avocados. The fruit is grown organically, without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
National Cool Logistics Network
Another key component of the National Cool Logistics Network is the development of Cool Port Addis, a coldstorage facility integrated into a railway terminal near Addis Ababa.
At this facility, produce from the hinterland is consolidated into reefer containers to be put on the train to Djibouti. The warehouse will also be used for national and regional distribution.
“Other components of the network are a dedicated railway solution for reefer containers from Ethiopia to Djibouti and a cross docking facility at the Port of Djibouti”, explained Jeroen Bos and Marcel Biemond of Flying Swans.
The Flying Swans consortium is a Dutch cross-industry coalition funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, that aims to increase perishable exports in emerging economies through the development of agro-logistical corridor projects.
Consortium members are the Port of Rotterdam, Boskalis International and Mercator Novus, with the Dutch Fresh Produce Centre as associated partner.