Ghana: I will conquer the market with quality Valencia Late oranges!
Before 2SCALE’s interventions in the Fruittiland citrus partnership in Ghana, the challenges were numerous. Low productivity of small- scale orchards with scattered production units, poor means of transport and bad road networks connecting farms to the markets were some of the concerns. So far, 2SCALE has worked with nine local agribusiness clusters in three regions of Ghana – Central, Ashanti and Eastern Regions. Two years after the intervention, the impact is already being felt. “I now know that the contract we sign is working and that it is not just a formality. We also understand that neither Fruittiland nor we are doing each other a favour”, Ekow Eduful, an executive member of the Abura-Asebu- Kwamankese branch of the Citrus Growers and Marketing Association of Ghana (CIGMAG), expresses with optimism. “We mutually support each other to promote our various businesses. Fruittiland Limited is the lead firm in the 2SCALE Citrus partnership in Ghana. The factory is located in Assin Nyankumasi in Central Region, Ghana’s main citrus production area. Fruittiland is processing oranges and has a daily extraction capacity of 1000 tons since its expansion in 2013.
The challenge of Fruittiland was how to source for good quality sweet oranges to be able to meet its production capacity. Farmers, on the other hand, were looking for a regular market for their oranges. 2SCALE, through its trainer- mentor, built the capacity of coaches who in turn coached the cluster actors on soft skills they needed to be able to achieve their production goals.
Soft skills coaching on issues like building healthy business relationships among the various actors, developing trust, establishing contracts, and ways of interaction, have led to improvements in communication between the lead firm, Fruittiland, the farmer organisations and other actors. As an example, the waiting time for offloading oranges at the factory used to be about four days. The producer organisation has been able to communicate the need for considerably shortening the waiting time to Fruitland and it is now down to about a day and half. The cluster actors’ capacities to access finance have also been built, in collaboration with financial institutions. As a result, three farmer groups have been able to access farm input credit.
The challenge of poor road network is also being tackled. In this, the farmers are taking the initiative, as they now understand they can very well attend to some of the challenges themselves, instead of ‘for-ever’ waiting for the government to intervene. They have mobilized themselves and fill potholes and repair very bad sections of roads leading to the B roads around their farms and thus facilitate easier access directly to the farms for the trucks that need to pick up their oranges. This has led to substantial reduction in production costs, as previously there were additional costs to get the oranges from the farm to the main road. In a particular case, the group repaired a 5 km long road. Hannah Agyei, a citrus farmer in the partnership, has ‘learnt from the coaching sessions on how to improve on the way we do things. If we continue to do the same things as we did in the past, we will remain in the same old position that we are not happy with….’
Fruittiland prefers the Valencia Late orange variety. The production of Valencia Late oranges, however, has been poor till now due to poor management practices. The trainings organised by 2SCALE have built farmers knowledge. Fungicides like Mangozeb and Cabendazim are now being used and pheromone traps for baiting fruit flies have been introduced as well. Because of these measures, orange production is on the rise for the about 3,800 farmers that are part of this citrus partnership. Farms that used to have an average yield of 2 tons per acre are now realizing about 10 tons, thanks to the trainings on farm maintenance and sanitation. Farmers are able to deliver as much as 10,000 tons of Valencia Late oranges to Fruittiland and are serving local markets and other processing companies as well. Ecoman Biotech and Kaakyire Agro – two of the local chemical input dealers – and other actors on the value chain have also seen an increase in business because of the adoptions of these new technologies. The rough methods of harvesting have also been improved. Harvesting and other farm service providing teams have been introduced the fruits from getting bruised or damaged and dirty. Post-harvest losses have reduced by about 15% with these simple techniques.
Benjamin Atidjah, 2SCALE’s trainer-mentor for the Fruittiland Citrus Partnership is quick to retort that “Fruittiland repaired 15 broken down trucks, which also increased the fleet of trucks of the organisation for transporting the oranges from the farms to the factory. This is also an indication that the business is gradually growing. I should note as well that the number of days trucks need to be hired by farmers to deliver the fruits to the factory has reduced from an average of four days to two days. This was part of the conditions negotiated between the farmers and the company. As we progress, we are working on addressing other problems like certification of the farmers groups, which is usually done by internationally recognized institutions like Fairtrade, GlobalGap, and others. Other organisations within the 2SCALE set-up help building the technical capacity of the farmer organisations on pest and disease management”.
And Atidjah further enthuses … “Our sessions on building business relationships, financial education, and marketing of agricultural products have been helpful to the clusters. For instance, the farmers are currently in the process of signing a contract with Fruittiland. Through this, both parties have a secure and proper business relationship and there is an established communication structure between the lead firm and the clusters”.