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East Africa ripe for value addition
It is not news that Africa is endowed with agricultural resources including fertile soils, water resources and good climate. These have, however, not been put to proper use leaving lots of room for improvement in the level of production. On the other hand, farm produce from most farmers goes to waste due to poor marketing or storage, or is bought at low prices by middlemen.
East Africa now holds a lot of potential for production of value added horticultural products. There have been sustained efforts to diversify from staple crops like maize to fruits and vegetables and the results are showing with increased supplies of fruits and vegetables. This trend has been coupled with improvements in the quality of the products. The short shelf life of these products has however meant that most of it gets spoilt with shortages occurring when the product is out of season.
Mangoes, passion fruit, pineapples, bananas, tomatoes and African leafy vegetables are just some of the products that are in abundant production across the East African landscape. Most of these are either exported fresh or sold locally, with the region missing out on profits from value addition of these products, which has the added advantages of shelf life extension, product diversification and employment creation.
There are numerous opportunities for the production of fruit beverages, jams, marmalades, jellies, sauces, canned products, frozen products, dried products to mention just a few. Fruits such as Mangoes, pineapples, bananas and vegetables and traditional African leafy vegetables, if well marketed, can create a niche market both for the local market and for export. Most product are also grown organically by small farmers and entrepreneurs.
Of course challenges still exist in production but with proper coordination and investment in postharvest systems a lot of these can be solved. There is a whole world of untapped opportunities in the region for value addition of products.
Networking among the various players can bring about the much needed cooperation and mergers to see the sector pooling its energies to greater heights globally.
On 4-6 December 2012 the East Africa Agriculture Value Chain Investment Summit and exhibition will focus on how to strengthen the Agri-Food sector in East Africa, by encouraging partnerships, exchanging of best practices and attracting investments.
Already some shrewd international agents have identified the appeal of this buyer market, establishing networks and actively targeting East African buyers and producers.
Speakers this year include Shafrir Godel, CEO, AgriQuality- who will be discussing "The Israeli Experience" and draw on lessons that East Africa can learn from Israel and Tei Mukunya, Managing Director, Azuri Health Ltd, Kenya who will be discussing opportunities and initiatives in agriculture value addition in East Africa.
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