Kakuzi, a Kenyan agro-business firm, has confirmed plans to strengthen its avocado smallholder base as part of a shared prosperity business plan. The firm is focusing on agricultural production expansion and diversification projects for its macadamia, blueberry, livestock and commercial forestry business lines.

Speaking during the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) listed firms 93rd Annual General Meeting held virtually, Kakuzi Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a said, “Kakuzi will this year invest more than Ksh. 400 million in capital expenditures (CAPEX) while focusing on upscaling its smallholder operations value to complement its production capacities and boost the global positioning of Kenyan avocados. It is critical that the markets only receive good quality fruits from Kenya, and to achieve this, building knowledge of the market requirements amongst farmers is very important.”

Mr. Ng’ang’a added that the Company, which has a 2,500 strong workforce, continues to invest in developing its core crops of avocado, macadamia, forestry and cattle and the new blueberry venture.

At the AGM, the firm’s shareholders unanimously voted for a Ksh. 18 dividends per share, representing a 28.5% growth from the Ksh. 14 dividends paid out the previous year. This return dividend makes Kakuzi one of the best performing return on investment firms at the NSE.

In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic challenges, Kakuzi’s development strategies, Ng’ang’a said, remain firmly on track to complete the firm’s agricultural expansion and diversification projects and advance the sustainability journey. “I am pleased to report that the pandemic did not force us to lay off any staff member, in-fact our employee numbers increased, and we were able to also honour our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Commitment with the Kenya Plantations and Agricultural Union to further increase wages,” he added.

According to Ng’ang’a, Kakuzi had achieved a milestone in its pursuit of corporate governance excellence by publishing its first Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) Report last year. “As a Board, we acknowledge that such processes are a critically important journey where one strives to reach new standards continuously. The next ESG report will be published later on this year,” he assured.

As part of its employee and community health promotion program focusing on preventative health services, Kakuzi last year employed a team of 13 Public Health Officers to assist in protecting its 2900 strong workforce from COVID-19. The team is tasked with interacting with workers, performing health checks, and providing invaluable advice on compliance with public health regulations within all the Company’s housing and processing units daily.

In 2020, the firm achieved robust results for the year, despite the uncertainty in its main sales markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm posted a Ksh. 848 million pre-tax profit representing a 16% drop from Ksh. 1,014 billion realized the previous year.

The firm’s avocado and macadamia export volumes were higher than 2019 but not sufficient to mitigate a significant reduction of 34% in the price of avocados due to higher global supply.