NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 22 – About 50,000 mango and passion fruit farmers in Kenya and Uganda are set to benefit from a new four-year partnership involving The Coca Cola Company and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the arrangement, the Foundation will grant Sh873 million to assist the farmers in productivity, while Coca Cola will provide a ready market for the produce. The programme will be overseen by TechnoServe.
Coca Cola East and Central Africa Still Beverages General Manager Lionel Marumahoko said consumer demand for fruit juice has been rising and the new deal will serve as a platform for the company to respond to the demand.
“Juice is an integral part of our business. For our local requirements, it is very important that we work with the local fruit farmers in expanding our supply,” Mr Marumahoko said.
He said the partnership would cut down the cost of importing fruit for processing with the aim of expanding its range of fruit juice brands. The deal also serves as a platform from which the company can source other locally-grown crops depending on the success of this initial project.
“We are starting small but if you look at our portfolio of brands, we have other variants that we will continue to source globally but use this initiative as a foundation as we increase the variety of fruits,” he said.
The Coca Cola Company has grown its ready-to-drink juice and concentrated juice volume at an annual growth rate of 11 percent from 1998 to 2008. Juice beverages from the company consist of more than 100 brands with more than 1,100 products.
Minute Maid, which is available locally, is the largest brand under the Coca Cola portfolio available in more than 70 countries.
According to TechnoServe country director Fred Ogana, the partnership also targets reducing poverty levels in both countries by helping farmers connect to ready markets with the aim of doubling their earnings by 2014.
“We are working with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Equity Bank, processors, extension service providers and the government to ensure farmers get maximum value for their produce,” Mr Ogana said.
As the implementation partner for the project, TechnoServe will train farmers in improved quality, increasing production as well as facilitating access to credit.
TechnoServe is currently conducting baseline studies from Western to Eastern Kenya to identify ideal growing areas that would guarantee maximum return on investments.
The total market value of fresh fruit and fruit products in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at $11.5 billion.