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Fruits Company Invests Sh200M in Cold Storage Facility

A big share of imported fruits are destined for cross-border trade with Kenya1s land-locked neighbours 

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Two South African fruit exporting companies together with local Kenyan partners have opened the doors of a modern cold storage facility in Nairobi. Fruitbox Ltd is the exclusive importer of Tru-Cape brand in Kenya. These products include apples, pears, cherries and soft citrus.

Fruitbox also imports citrus and table grapes from Southern African countries and Egypt, as well as kiwi fruit from Europe and South America. “While we previously leased cold storage, we had a need for more purpose-built infrastructure. This led to the next step in the evolution of our business, which was to build our own cold storage facilities,” says Nico de Lange, chairman of Fruitbox Ltd.

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The $1.5 million (Ksh220 million) was launched on Sunday, 22 October. Fruitbox Ltd is a Kenyan importing and distribution company formed in 2014. It is owned by two South African companies – Vitanova International and Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing – as well as Messrs. Sandip Jethalal and Bhaumik Shah, both with a long history in the Kenyan fresh produce industry.

The facility, with space for 800 pallets of fruit, has seven loading docks. “In Kenya we are the market leader in the way we handle and store our fruit. We classify all fruit on arrival and store it according to quality and shelf life. This ensures that stock is sold in optimum condition, with great shelf life and according to market conditions,” says Nico de Lange, chairman of Fruitbox. Ltd.

Fruitbox Ltd also adds value with an outstanding reporting system, says Sandip Jethalal, general manager of Fruitbox. “We send all data back to suppliers and maintain a very good cold chain. From the time of arrival to storage should not take longer than an hour.

Simon Cabral, director at Vitanova International, says it is part of their long term strategy to assist Fruitbox Ltd as the leading importer in East Africa.

The modern space, located within the Tilisi development, about 30 km from Nairobi CBD and close to the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, enables Fruitbox Ltd to conveniently receive fruit entering Kenya via sea freight from Mombasa or air freight from Nairobi.

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Fruitbox Ltd is mitigating Nairobi’s occasional power outages with diesel generators, but part of the planning for phase two of the project includes solar panels. “The premises allow us to double our capacity as we grow, and we hope to start building again in two years’ time.”

Mr Roelf Pienaar, managing director of Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, says the storage allows them to serve the entire East Africa. Kenya is often described as the gateway to Central East Africa.

Apples Huge potential

A major share of the produce imported by Fruitbox Ltd is destined for cross-border trade with its land-locked neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan. The balance moves through the wholesale market in Kenya, with a small portion entering the local retail market.

Apples remain the main product category in the whole of Africa, with a huge potential market for especially pink and bi-colour varieties. “As our volumes of Pink Lady apples grow, East Africa becomes key as a market outlet. There are also good opportunities for varieties such as Cripps Red and Flash Gala,” says Roelf.

The market, with a growing middle class, is also opening up for high value products such as cherries and smaller deciduous fruit. “We realise that food may become scarcer in future. However, it is part of our strategic footprint to ensure sufficient fruit security in the East African region,” says Sandip.

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Bill Yaura is a Correspondent for Business Today. He can be reached on email: [email protected]
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