The Rai family is one of Kenya’s wealthiest thanks to its vast interests in sectors including cement manufacturing, edible oils and soaps, sawmilling, sugar processing, horticulture and real estate.
It literally dominates entire industries. As of 2020, for example, the Rai family controlled close to half of the sugar market in Kenya through its three sugar millers – West Kenya, Sukari Industries and Olepito. Data from the Sugar Directorate indicated that the three firms controlled 45 percent of the total sales of sugar in Kenya. Other companies in their portfolio include Rai Cement, Timsales (Timber), Tulip Properties and Menengai Oil Refineries Limited whose brands include Top Fry cooking oil, Somo cooking fat and Menengai Cream washing bars.
And now, the family is betting on avocado farming to expand the fortune. On its Menengai Orchards farm in Nakuru county, it is growing avocados on 380 acres.
Menengai Orchards is among companies eyeing the growing global market for avocados from Kenya. This market expanded significantly when China gave the greenlight for exports of the fruit from Kenya.
The first batch of avocados exported to China from Kenya landed in Shanghai on July 27, 2022 – three years after former President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a deal with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping allowing Kenya to export avocados to China. As of 2022, 15 firms had been cleared by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) to export avocados to China following inspection of their facilities.
At the same time, demand for avocados has been growing steadily in Europe and North America. To cash in, Menengai Orchards plans to extend the acreage for avocado at its farm to 600 acres in 2024.
It is also exploring roping in smallholder farmers from the local community to plant the avocados for export.
“We are planning to expand our farm in coming years and we are also looking at incorporating the local community in planting the avocado for export,” stated David Jean Louis, a manager at Menengai Orchards.