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Dutch IT worker steps into Tanzanian avocado business and builds own laboratory

"After a container of avocados was rejected at the Port of Rotterdam, I decided it was time to change course"

Dutchman Gerald Mulder's background is in IT, but he got into the avocado business via his Tanzanian in-laws a few years back. "My family manages some 500 acres (200 hectares) of avocados in Tanzania, including at the foot of Kilimanjaro and in the south of the country. During the corona period, I delved into it and so in 2021 the company Avocado Tanzania became a reality," says Gerald.

Avocado Tanzania has its own warehouse and packing line. As soon as the harvesting season starts, trucks drive back and forth to the packing station, where the avocados are packed in their own 4 kg boxes, after which they are transported to the port of Mombasa in refrigerated trucks on pallets every Wednesday.

"A tad naive," he began exporting Tanzanian avocados to the Netherlands in good spirits. It became a hard learning experience when at the port of Rotterdam, one of the containers was rejected with a hefty MRL violation. "That won't happen to me again," the entrepreneur told himself. He invested heavily in mapping the supply chain, training local growers and is now even setting up a laboratory at the Port of Dar es Salaam with the help of local authorities.

"The Embassy of Tanzania in The Hague and the Dutch Embassy in Dar es Salaam have helped me tremendously. They recognise Tanzania's enormous potential as an agricultural exporter, which is currently only very minimally exploited. They put me in touch with the Tanzanian government, and there is enormous willingness to put Tanzania on the map as an agricultural producer. Admittedly, a lot has to be done for this, but also thanks to the support of the current president, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, at least steps are currently being taken," says Gerald, who has commuted between Tanzania and the Netherlands for many years.

A certified laboratory is an important part of this. With the help of Groen Agro Control, part of the Normec Food Group, a certified lab for all perishables will be established at the port this year. "My focus is now entirely on a high-quality clean product from the beginning to the end of the chain. By working closely with our farmers, we can assure them a fair price, this allows them to continue to guarantee their knowledge, skills and the continuous quality of our avocados in a sustainable production. Our growers are all GlobalGAP and Smeta certified and meet phytosanitary requirements."

"That starts with training the farmers, but we have also started our own controlled release of plant protection products so that we can regulate the whole chain much better. After all, if you are the first on the hill here, you have the least impact from the crop protection products, but if you are at the end, you have the most agents in your crop, but you have to be on top of that. If we can do all those inspections in Tanzania ourselves, we can avoid rejection issues, as I have experienced before. We also work together with organic growers; we try to be as sustainable as possible," says Gerald.

The infrastructure is also being worked hard on. "In that, there is still a world to be won. For instance, the port of Dar es Salaam has only 90 reefer connections. By comparison, the port of Mombasa has as many as 1,131. But DP World in particular is currently working hard to expand the port, adding seven quays, so this is really going to make a difference. Not only for avocado exports, but also for meat and fish exports."

A thorn in Gerald's side is that many Tanzanian avocados are supplied as a Kenyan product. With the launch of some 14 exit points at border crossings, this should change. "With DNA techniques, it is now possible to trace which areas the exotics come from. I hope we can take this to the next step with our laboratory so that we prevent Kenya from claiming that Tanzanian product comes from Kenya. Now sometimes avocados from Tanzania are not even named in the export figures."

Tanzania's avocado export season traditionally starts in late November and runs through April. Avocado Tanzania grows mainly Hass and Fuerte avocados. Besides exporting to Dutch and German wholesalers, among others, Avocado Tanzania also exports to destinations such as India, China and the United Arab Emirates. The next project Gerald plans to grab by the head is selling the Class II product. "Of the 24 tonnes I pick now, 20 tonnes are suitable for export. As a result, a lot of product is now lost. My goal is to start processing these residual streams. Ideally, I would like to start pressing oil from the avocados at the ports," Gerald concludes.

For more information:
Gerald Mulder
Avocado Tanzania
Tel +31 503 645 798
Mob: +316 289 614 56
[email protected]

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