Satisfying export market with quality fresh produce

Satisfying export market with quality fresh produce

Establishing a base and a clientele in the export market is no mean feat. It requires perseverance and pushing one’s self to the limits to break even. Gideon Njoroge Mburu a graduate in IT, is the founder of Lui Farm, a fresh produce exporting company based in Embakasi and has learnt it the hard way but it is the struggles he recalls have been worthy in shaping his business.

Just like any other Kenyan youth after graduating from university, having the hopes of securing his career job which was not forthcoming, he secured a job with one of the leading fresh produce export companies and this is where his passion for export began. He quit the job to venture into the export market but the long legal process of company registration and meeting the stringent regulations set by KEPHIS held him back for a while before the idea materialized.

He first started as a farmer growing snow peas and sugar snaps on good acreages but ended up discovering that the demand was in French beans. Ninety percent of vegetables exported from Kenya being French beans.

“Lui Farm was incorporated in 2015; we are a leading grower of high quality fresh fruits and vegetables. Our operations entails production and processing of various vegetables such as extra-fine beans, snow peas, sugar snaps, baby corns and fruits mainly passion fruits for exports to European and Middle East countries. We started with 15 consignments; sadly financial crisis crippled our operations. Luckily we were able to bounce back to business; in 2018 we were able to get a good client who would buy our produce in large volumes and pay promptly. We also managed to get another client who would purchase 80 percent of our produce, “Mr. Mburu explained.

Apart from them farming the crops, the company would later contract farmers in different regions in Kenya, French beans being the largest in their portfolio. The reason they delved in contractual farming was to bridge the gap of quantities which the company farm is not able to produce. The company does farmers recruitment exercise and for a farmer to fit the bill; first they should have good source of water running throughout the year. French beans require lots of water in their cultivation. Secondly, they consider the farmers location, meaning they cannot go beyond the region where they have not contracted other farmers. “Once the beans have been harvested from the farms, we take them to the Horticultural Crops Directorate – HCD’s pack houses where we do sorting, grading and quality checks. Then we do trimming on both sides which is vital because the beans have to be equal in size, afterwards we dip them in a salad sanitizer to prolong their shelf life then pack as well as label them,” he explains.

“Our farmers are the engine that drives us; I always engage them directly and oversee all the activities that are being carried out in their farms. We have invested heavily in a technical team which includes agronomist and field officers to assist the farmers. Moreover, we provide them with seeds, fertilizer, and farming gears. We often train them and recruit more farmers to join in the farming venture. We carry out a voluntary food test after every two weeks to ensure quality of our produce. This was brought about after we incurred losses when one of our consignments was intercepted due to MRL issues.” Mburu pointed out.

They have also been contracted by Delmonte to supply pineapples to the local market; groceries, retail shops and supermarkets which have seen the company make a big stride.

As the company strives to achieve more in business; they have rolled out an education funds drive dubbed FICHA AIBU INITIATIVE aimed at assisting school going children in areas where they are engaged in farming. The purpose of the initiative is to fund purchase of full school uniforms and learning aids. It has been done in two phases which has seen over 60 pupils benefit and they are rolling up the 3rd phase with 45 Pupil’s of Vota Primary in Machakos County. Moreover, Super Junior Kids football club is fully sponsored by Lui Farm. The company sponsors the young upcoming footballers by buying for them games kits and organizes football tournaments.

Just like any other business they have been faced by a couple of challenges, such as costly fertilizers, ban by the government on use of some pesticides and stun regulations for export produce unlike for local consumption. They are calling upon the government to review some of the stringent measures as well as lowering the costs of fertilizers which are really eating into their profit margins affecting their cost of doing business.

“In the next five years, we hope to spread our wings more as a number one export company. Equally, ‘Brand goes with quality’, a phrase commonly used; we are producing high quality and healthy French beans for international consumption and looking forward to scaling to more markets globally.

Anyone with the intention of being an exporter, first need to start with farming; learn all the dynamics that are involved in producing healthy and safe produce for international markets then you start exporting,”he alluded.

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