ITC Shares

Quality Champions in Kenya

10 December 2020
Waqas Rafique, Anna Zampa, International Trade Centre

How an agro-producer strikes international business deals

I f you ask June Gathoni today how her business is going, she will beam with confidence. But not long ago, she would have reacted differently. One of her company’s consignments to Korea was returned and the prospects for her company, Urban Fresh Ventures, did not appear very promising.

However, June does not give up easily. She understood well the challenges for an aspiring fresh fruit and vegetable exporter from Kenya.

Compliance is key

Although June and many other agro-exporters from East Africa possess tremendous export potential, their lack of expertise and knowledge of regulations, market requirements and quality standards often get in the way of accessing international markets. Not being able to access credible sources of information is another impediment to reaching international buyers.

To overcome these challenges, June applied to the Quality Champions coaching programme on food safety and quality at the Kenyan Bureau of Standards.

‘The Quality Champions have been fantastic. They went all out to help me put things in place. I can now clearly see all the mistakes we had made in meeting our clients’ demands. Now we know that following the clients’ specifications is the right thing to do,’ says June Gathoni.

Quality Champions are technical experts from the public and private sectors in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda trained by the International Trade Centre (ITC), through the European Union – East African Community Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP). Specialists on quality improvement in the region are key to strengthening the capacity of agribusinesses to build international credibility.

Naomi Kitur and Joyce Mokamba, Quality Champions, helped June improve her data collection capacity during nine months of coaching. Reliable data ensures the availability of relevant information to make informed decisions. Together with Urban Fresh Ventures, the Champions designed a set of standard operating procedures to ensure the company’s systematic compliance with international regulations and standards.

From recommendations on improving quality processes and hands-on support on data collection to designing and implementing standardized operation processes, Quality Champions work with companies to provide long-lasting solutions.

Thanks to these efforts, June Gathoni negotiated and signed deals with buyers in Russia for over 46 tons of avocados and succeeded in shipping samples to Kuwait.

Looking ahead

The exporter is determined to make the most of her newly acquired skills. As part of her business expansion plans, June is getting ready to rent out and maintain her own pack house.

Around 90 companies in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have applied for the Quality Champions project – and it will continue, despite COVID-19, through regular online meetings.