Today we went to do some farm research near Kangulumira. We stopped at the clinic first to drop off Sophia so she can do some home-visits with Barbara. Then Israel, Henri and I drove about 5 minutes out of town to visit a pineapple-drying farm. I met the owner, Muhamad Abas, and was introduced by Israel. He explained that he would be interpreting the conversation for us and also that Henri would be helping. I introduced myself in Luganda and Muhamad seemed quite surprised and happy. He asked how long I have been here for and Israel said “days” and that made Muhamad surprised. We began our interview and the transcribed interview is below.
To summarize the interview, we spoke mostly about his operational limitations with his organic certification and just the basics of how he ran his farm. His biggest limitation was that he needed a certification to be recognized as organic and to be able to export his products to the EU. He currently cannot afford the certification and said the fee was 50,000,000 Uganda shillings. At the current exchange rate of 2,400 to the dollar that would be about US $20,000 which seems insanely outrageous to me. I am currently doing some research to find out the validity of this number. He said another organization has the certification and therefor he sells to them at a low price and they in turn export the products to the EU at 10X’s the rate that they buy them from Muhamad for.
We also spoke of these daily operations. He has 30 employees, mostly women, who work for about 3 hours a day, 7 days a week. They get paid 2,000 shillings per day which is about a dollar day which I believe is about the national average. He sells a kilo of the dried pineapple for 8,000 shillings and can produce 30 kilos per day. At that rate he can make 29,000 shillings per day in product ($1,000). This is his revenue, not profit as he buys the pineapple from local growers. He does have a small farm in which he grows pineapple but he buys most of it from the farmers.
Israel and I spoke of how this operation could be transformed into our business plan. We noted that if we are able to secure a certification, we can use that for all the products growing on the farm. We will do some research and try to see how much it costs and add it to the plan. Since Muhamad buys the pineapple from other farmers, we can make the process more efficient by growing the pineapple ourselves. We would plot out the acres of the farms to farmers who would receive the land for free, and they would grow their certain crop in their plot.
We left the farm and thanked Muhamad. He left us with a smile and gave us each a huge handful of the pineapple. We thanked him and headed to Henri’s family’s farm. We went to see what his farm looked like and what ours could possibly look like. His farm is very large, probably over 10 acres. The land is his fathers, passed on from his father and is plotted out to him and his brother. They grow pineapple, mango, sugar cane, coffee and other fruit on the land. During our walk Israel and Henri were speaking in Luganda and I rarely was able to understand the conversation. I did ask some questions as we walk and found out the following from Israel per personal communication:
Pineapple can grow in cycles of 7 years. After 7 years is up the nutrients are unable to support the growth and one needs to grow another crop on that land. I asked him if the market for pineapples get saturated because it seems like most everyone grows pineapple and wondered if there were so many that the prices were being driven down. He said that pineapple was so popular and it was used every day that the prices still stayed high enough to farm. I told Israel about shade grown coffee and he had never heard of it. I told him that shade grown is known to be the best 1% of coffee grown in the world and demands a high price. He wants to know how it is grown because he believes it will just grow very high as it will reach for the sun and not become bushy and produce well.