The Challenge: diversification for dried mango export plants
The Sense consultants have been very active in the development of the mango processing sectors in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ivory Coast since 2009. It started with a study commissioned by the World Bank to understand why exports had collapsed from 400 tons to 150 tons of dried mango in 2008. Over the next 8 years, our consultants worked intermittently on introducing modern South African tunnel dryers and other improvements in drying technology. They also focused on marketing and bringing South African companies to West Africa willing to invest and develop with West African companies. Sense has also worked on access to finance for local plants. As a result of these interventions and the dedicated work of local entrepreneurs, exports increased from 150 tons to about 3500 tons, making Burkina Faso one of the main players in the world market.
One particular issue however remained: how to professionalise plants that only operate 3 to 4 months of the year. Sense was able to introduce dried banana and dried coconut to German supermarkets Rewe and Edeka during the World Bank-financed project. However, these products failed to reach scale because of a lack of competitiveness with Asian and Latin American producers. Other dried fruit products never made it to market. For example, pineapple is not grown locally, which makes it too expensive. Dried Papaya is too expensive to produce because of high water content and high farm gate prices. Candied papaya is not competitive with Asia because of high sugar prices, and candied ginger proved problematic due to the local variety that is too spicy for the EU market.
Finally in 2021 Sense got the opportunity to tackle the diversification challenge in a systematic way through participating in the project Dry More, aimed at drying more!
Project goals and objectives
The main goal of project Dry More is to develop one or more alternative dried products that help dried mango processors to produce all year round.
This in turn should help to convert temporary jobs in their factory to permanent jobs, which would have a huge impact on rural livelihoods. About 90% of factory staff are women, many in rural areas. The proposed products would also offer opportunities for small scale farmers to increase their income.
Our project targets are therefore formulated as the number of tons of new products exported, the number of farmers trained and integrated into the value chains, and the number of temporary jobs converted to full-time jobs.
Dry More is a real innovation project, where we started with a long list of about 10 potential products, with the goal to have at least one clear ‘winner’ in the end. A Winner is a product in which Burkina Faso can be competitive on the world market in terms of price, quality and other key buying criteria. It is also one that is profitable for farmers and processors. And a product that can be successfully scaled to the whole industry.
The final goal is not to help a hand full of pilot companies to diversify, but to build the foundations for a whole new industry/ value chain for the about 50 dried mango exporters in the country, and even potentially for neighbouring regions.
The project has 4 important pillars :
Market and technology development
Under this component, feasibility studies have been conducted to shortlist products and finally select 3 products. These are dried & sliced Ginger for the spice industry, Hibiscus for the herbal and fruit tea industry and Fonio, a gluten free highly nutritious grain comparable to Quinoa.
Business cases have been developed that show the potential profitability as well as the break-even volumes and pricing. Currently, a whole range of special equipment for ginger and fonio processing has been developed in South Africa and is awaiting installation and testing in Burkina Faso. Further adaptations are expected as well as more prototypes. The project does not donate equipment but provides a 50% co-finance on new equipment to make sure the beneficiaries will use the equipment and test it properly.
Another important activity under this component is the development of processing manuals, optimisation of production processes and the training of the processors in the project. Local capacity to conduct maintenance and repairs on new machinery will also be developed.
Market research, support of the processors in finding new strategic clients and facilitation of the sales to these clients is another crucial activity. Dry More wants to work with importers who want to build up a sustainable value chain for the coming years, and are prepared to work together with Dry More. This work requires samples to be produced and evaluated by clients, visits from clients to factories, test shipments of limited amounts of product and finally commercial shipments to be coordinated.
The main selling point for all 3 crops is that mango processors should be able to develop into reliable suppliers of high quality products with full traceability and HACCP and BRC certification. They have world class drying equipment installed in certified plants that can ensure a consistently high quality end-product, supplied via world class logistic
Production & farmer development
A second important component is the training of about 3100 farmers in good agricultural practises on ginger, fonio and hibiscus as well as farmer business school. This includes demonstration plots used for practical in field training, as well as agricultural extension. For agricultural extension, the staff of the processors will be trained.
This component also includes access to inputs, and in particular the development of seed systems. Access to quality seeds is a key challenge in any product in Burkina Faso. Agricultural trials to test different varieties and agricultural practices are also organised.
Finally, processors are helped with the introduction of farm management software.
Access to finance
A third important component is an access to working capital and investment capital for the processors. As they increase scale, working capital will be needed to manage outgrower programs and purchase products from farmers and process and export. In addition, investment capital may be needed to purchase specialised equipment.
Under this component, the intermediaries between processors and farmers can be further professionalised so they can increase the supply of new products. Also under this component, the project also works on Animal fattening in Northern Burkina Faso.
Dry More is financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Burkina Faso. It is implemented by a consortium of 5 parties:
- Advance Consulting, specialists in development finance
- Agrodev, a long term partner of Sense in Burkina Faso
- Afrique Verte, a local expert in farmer training and fonio production and processing
- Timini, a local leading processor and exporter of dried mango
The heart of the project is formed by Timini and 5 dried mango processors. Dry More does not export any product, but helps the processors to export products, and prove that which is feasible.