Twiga Foods: Formalizing Kenya’s Agricultural Produce Sector

There is usually a complaint or two made while stocking up on groceries over the high price of fresh produce. The retailers say they have no choice over the matter since they need to run a profitable business while farmers say their hands are tied by the various brokers between them and the market. Out to solve this issue and help reduce prices of agricultural produce is Twiga Foods. Following is a Q&A session Crossover Kenya had with Twiga Foods.

Crossover Kenya: How did the company start?

Twiga Foods: Grant Brooke, CEO and Co-founder, and Peter Njonjo, Co-founder, wanted to solve the problem of high food prices in Nairobi. Why should bananas form Meru cost almost the same as those from Kampala, yet they have travelled further? The problem they found was that the markets in Kenya, and Africa as a whole, are very fragmented. With the number of brokers handling, for example the bananas from Meru to Nairobi, with each broker adding their profits and the cost of post-harvest losses the prices of produce is bound to high. Therefore, Twiga was formed with the aim of unifying agricultural producers and retailers onto a single platform, in order to make markets secure, reliable and fair. Basically, we are trying to formalize a sector that has always been deemed as informal. Therefore, by eliminating the middle men/brokers we have been able to monitor quality, lower post-harvest losses and decrease prices for our vendors.

Crossover Kenya: How does the platform work?

Twiga Foods: We use a platform that brings together mobile technology, a network of food producers, pack houses and vehicles to supply and deliver a variety of products directly from farmers to retailers. The M-commerce platform is where vendors are able to order their produce and they are delivered the next day and they pay for their produce using mobile money.

Crossover Kenya: Do you deal directly with farmers and other product producers?

Twiga Foods: We currently deal with agricultural produce. We usually source our produce from farmers across the country. But we do more than just buy produce from the farmers. We want to empower them to build their business. We do this by guaranteeing a market for their produce, which is usually a problem for most farmers; we are transparent about the prices in the markets in Nairobi, so we buy produce at or above market prices; we promptly pay, issue receipts and partner with financial institution to help them build their business. This also ensures that we have a good supply of produce. The produce is also handled, from the farmers to the vendors, by an export-grade transport facility to ensure the quality of the produce. And since we can trace the produce back to the farms we are able to guarantee the safety of our produce.

Crossover Kenya: What are your plans for the future.

Twiga Foods: We want to ensure that we have all the 17 core products that the average mama mboga sells, that is why we are looking for farmers who grow a variety of produce to join our platform. At the moment we supply 6,000 vendors a week in Nairobi, but we are looking to supply 4,000 vendors a day.

Crossover Kenya: A piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs

Twiga Foods: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, just make sure you learn from them. Sometimes those mistakes are lessons that can grow your business.