Garden Fresh, a Rwandan company specialising in export of fresh produce, has opened Rwanda’s first privately owned packhouse, a critical infrastructure linking the farm and the market. The facility, built with support from the HortInvest and IDH project, will not only reduce post-harvest loss, but also increase farmer income and generate new employment opportunities. “Building the capacity of local businesses to engage in export markets is needed to build the local economy,” said Sylvie Nirere, the IDH country manager in Rwanda. “Having a packhouse ensures that Garden Fresh is able to provide quality produce and quantity that meet its clients’ requirements. We’re very excited to see this day arrive.” Delivering fresh produce to the market requires the appropriate infrastructure to ensure that nutritious fruits and vegetables arrive safely with consumers, experts say. Packhouses provide a critical link between farm and market aggregating produce from numerous farms and preparing it for delivery according to strict quality standards. The 600 square metre packhouse, located in the Prime Economic Zone in Masoro, has the capacity of 25-30 metric tons of fresh produce, and according to the company, will provide employment to some 300 Rwandan women and youth to deliver high quality produce. At the official opening on Thursday, September 8, Faustin Mbundu, the Chairman of Garden Fresh, said the packhouse, valued at nearly $1 million, would support the Rwandan export sector. “This packhouse will help to support the Rwandan export sector, especially the horticulture sector, which is growing, and currently we rely on one packhouse with international standards,” Mbundu said. “We continue to have good efforts by the government and stakeholders at the farm level and support to farmers, and the harvests are growing. So, the handling of these products to maintain their quality and make them exportable requires such packhouses.” Garden Fresh manages its own farms and works with out-growers to grow, harvest and deliver fruits and vegetables, primarily French beans, passion fruits, chilies and avocados. To date, Garden Fresh has had to process their produce through the only standard packhouse in Rwanda run by the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), which has capacity limitations. In combination with the lack of a cold truck, the company couldn’t maintain a cold chain from the farms to Kigali, which is a standard requirement for the export market. Cold chain facilities, like the new pack house, will increase the percentage of exportable produce and increase efficiencies in processing post-harvest activities. The new pack house, combined with a cold storage facility for out-growers and two refrigerated trucks will decrease post-harvest losses by 30 percent and vastly improve quality. Garden Fresh is currently in negotiations with a retailer in the United Kingdom for fresh produce. The new packhouse will allow Garden Fresh to achieve BRC certification and ensure that quality standards can be achieved. The company currently works with over fifty out growers and employs approximately 300 workers. With the addition of the pack house, it’s projected that Garden Fresh could employ up to 600 people. Commenting on the new development, GB Banjara, the HortInvest project manager, said the packhouse came at the right time as the country projected to increase annual horticulture export revenues from the current $42 million to $130 million in 2024, according to NAEB figures. “In order to achieve the national goal, you have to increase everything – production, transportation, marketing, export – by three to four times,” said Banjara. “So, this facility is very critical in achieving that future goal, and it will lead to employment creation and more income to farmers.” IDH focuses on empowering people within corporations, the global financial sector and governments that have the most influence over value chains. Headquartered in the Netherlands, it has around 380 employees globally, operating in 20 landscapes and 12 commodities and sourcing regions with over 1000 public and private partners. In 14 years of operation, IDH has generated over $390 million in private sector investment and support for new business models that create better jobs, better incomes, a better environment, and gender equity for all.