Ghana: Entrepreneur taps into international demand for local food products
Follow the demand
Selasie Farms and Groceries was founded in 1997 after Azaglo decided to move away from primary agricultural production into agro-processing. In the years prior – from 1992 up until 1996 – she had run a mixed farming business that included poultry rearing, a piggery, and the cultivation of maize and cassava.
In the transition, Azaglo used crops from her own farm to process into popular products and sell on the high streets of Accra. Customers sometimes requested specific items and if she didn’t have them, Azaglo sourced the ingredients from market sellers, and processed and sold it the very next day. In this way, the company’s offering was built on market demand.
As the years progressed, Azaglo realised she needed to get the equipment in place to run a professional operation. She steadily added dehydration and packaging machines at a facility in Greater Accra on land the family owned.
The farms have since been sold and the company now sources from suppliers and farmers. All the processing is done in-house, except for the cooking palm oil, which is done by the supplier itself and then packaged and sold by the company as Selasie Zomi.
Convenience and nostalgia
Azaglo believes the company’s products are popular owing to the convenience it brings. “Preparing these meals from scratch really takes a long time. Also, the diaspora who have left Ghana, long for the food of their home and want to buy it where they now reside.”
From very early on, the company provided some of its goods to third parties who exported on a smaller scale to these customers, but Selasie’s first direct overseas shipment came in 2015 after a call from a distributor in Australia. “She had seen my plantain fufu and wanted to do business. She travelled to Ghana, visiting both my house and factory before ordering the goods she wanted,” says Azaglo. “It was a 20-footer container!”
The customer was so impressed and eager to do business that she made the full payment upfront to secure the shipment. More export customers followed, and in 2019, around 40% of sales was geared towards the export market with customers in the UK, Spain, US, Italy and Canada.
Selasie handles the export logistics for the UK client: arranging for the container and shipment itself. The American and Spanish clients have agents in Ghana who collect the order and manage the export and shipping independently. Upfront payments of between 60% and 70% are due by the clients before processing.
The benefits of export clients
When the pandemic hit, Selasie’s local sales suffered. Where the balance was 60/40 in favour of domestic, it tilted 80/20 towards exports in 2020. Restrictions on local movement resulted in lower retail turnover and the company lost its listing in certain stores.
Selasie Farms and Groceries products are stocked in 58 outlets in Greater Accra – including Spar, Shoprite, Marina Mall and Max Mart – but others have dropped off and Azaglo is now trying to revive these relationships. “I am reaching out, writing letters and sending our new price list, hoping orders will follow.”
Courtesy of How We Made It Africa – read full article here.