‘We want people to get vegetables fresh anytime’
on our own, we are doing little bits which I am sure later on will come together and we will be able to push that chain.
What about the marketing side of things, how do you dispose of your produce?
First time we did it we went through the conventional route, via the market and the dealers, but we discovered that based on the goal we want to achieve of providing the best products with the best packaging and the best prices so that buyers can make their choices, we discovered that the present system will not allow it so we had to try to create awareness and connection with consumers because we believe that with more knowledge there is more desire or demand.
Did you try the big supermarket chains that are sprouting in the major cities?
Yes, we have tried them, we have worked with some of them but because of our goal, it was not very beneficial because with vegetables, people do not understand it is a very disciplined activity. It is one that has to do with processes. You need organisation, perfect timing and planning and even if you reach the big supermarkets if they do not understand the importance of being consistent, even if they tell you about their needs and you supply them, respecting the time in placing orders and supplying them, they too have to understand that because if they want the best quality they must give you time to offer them the best. So the problem I had with these supermarkets is sometimes they do not understand what it involves in vegetable farming and they change their mind on you; they negotiate anytime and they upset your planning.
What about prices, do they offer more competitive prices because usually the problem for farmers is that they sweat for so long and they get pittance for their work and it is the middlemen who benefit the most?
It is also part of the reason we chose to deal directly with customers. The middlemen and the supermarkets play the same role. They want to profit a hundred percent on the farmers’ work without consideration of how much work he has put in, how much time he has spent and also how much passion he has put in. These are what he is bringing to you to buy and you have to understand that that is his only life. He has committed his whole life to produce for you. So the least you can do is to appreciate him with a good price. But we do not have that in Nigeria. Supermarkets will want to buy from you at the same price that dealers will buy from you and our whole idea is to escape the dealers so that farmers can get the fruit of their labour; but of course these products are sold at a good price but which does not get to the farmers.
Did you consider the idea of setting up a farmers’ market similar to what was set up in Kano and also in recent years
Yes, it is concept we considered because the more of such that there are and the more people can access them, the more they will like it. So farmers’ market is also one strategy we want to consider.
Do you face a challenge in cold storage as farmers of perishable produce which need to be kept fresh?
That also is a very very big challenge, especially in vegetables because they are perishable. Their shelf life is very short - 48 hours to a week - depending on the vegetable and the storage method and even more so in Abuja where the weather is hot. We are considering some innovations we can have because we are not yet that large scale to make that huge investment. So we are considering different innovations that will serve us.
We can use containers with air conditioners that can keep the vegetables fresh and there can be constant supply of those produce. We want people to be able to access fresh vegetables anytime they want.