Running your own fruit juice company: How dreams become reality
Fruittiland is running a fruit juice processing facility in Ghana with a processing capacity of 1,000 tons of fresh citrus a day. With the 2SCALE event only one week away, we talked with Fruittiland’s general manager Fatawu Ibrahim Gombilla (38) to learn more about his company and the partnership with 2SCALE.
Could you tell us a little bit more about Fruittiland’s core business?
The company’s core business is buying oranges and processing them into juice concentrate for local and international markets. We completed the structure of the company in 2010 and started producing in 2011. First we only processed 500 tons a day, but now we have the capacity for 1000 tons daily.
How did you get involved in Fruittiland?
When I finished high school I already dreamt of running a huge company. I didn’t know yet what kind of company exactly, but I knew I could do this. Then after I received my accounting degree in 2003, I worked at a fruit juice company for five years. There I learned a lot of things about juice production. After five years it was time for me to move on and to start my own company. Together with my colleague, Abubakar Alhassan, I found an investor who shared our dreams, and by 2011 we started test running our factory. We are now the largest fruit juice concentrate producer in West Africa. Becoming the GM of Fruittiland was a big jump for me. Resigning from my job implied a big, yet unavoidable risk if I wanted to start my own company. First of all I would be unemployed and I was not sure that my own company would fly. At that time I was completely submerged into this project, if it failed it would have meant that I would go back five years in time in my life, and lose everything I achieved until then. But I’m glad I took these risks. Now I’m leading about 240 people working in the factory in the peak season and I’m really happy doing this.
In which ways do you partner with the 2SCALE program?
We were introduced to 2SCALE by Verbruggen Juice Trading and Fair Trade Original, both from The Netherlands. The partnership with 2SCALE is helping us with strengthening our raw material supply through organizing smallholder farmers in groups and training them in fair trade standards. 2SCALE creates awareness about farming practices and innovations that can cause change in the ways of doing farming. It offered the opportunity to sell fair trade juice for which smallholder farmers earn a premium of 200 USD per ton of juice sold.
Do you work with other partners as well?
We also work with GIZ, a German development partner in Ghana. We partner with them on a pilot to establish a farmer services center, to which we each contribute 50%. This center will provide farming equipment and labor to help the farmers in our chain.
Who are your main customers and how do you market your products in these markets?
Our main market is Europe, but we are selling on the local market as well, and recently we started looking into the regional markets. We are attending fairs and search on the internet to market our products, but we’re also depending on referrals from others.
How many people do you employ?
In peak season we employ about 240 people directly and about 5000 indirectly. About 70% of our employees is under 35. A lot of our work requires physical strength, which is why we tend to work with young people. Youth unemployment is high in Ghana, so most of the applications we receive are from young men. Only 30% of our employees are women, because of the physical type of work in the factory.
In what way did working for Fruittiland change the lives of your employees?
Most of our employees are now able to pay school fees for their kids since they have a regular source of income. They receive regular training on time management, handling the machinery and hygiene. We assist the communities with employment and other social issues as well. We helped them to build a toiletry facility and a community gathering facility for instance. And we trained them in farming practices, not for fruit but other crops they plant.
Are you sure the business will continue and even grow after the 2SCALE program stops?
Sure, there are a lot of opportunities yet to tap. Sustainability measures include creating budget, the farmer services center and continuing to support the farmers after the program ends.
What are your dreams for the future?
In the future we plan to build a biogas plant to reduce costs on steam generation, use organic fertilizers to give back to farmers and we are also looking into expanding to other fruits such as passion fruits, mango and pineapple. We aim to further improve our farming management, plough back our profits, and find new investors. We wish to see the farmers change their attitudes towards farming, creating an excellent fruit juice industry in Ghana and the West Africa sub region.