What you need to know:
The overwhelming demand for fresh produce has made the Kanyije family grow from supplying yams, matooke, sugarcane, egg plants and chili pepper to just four customers to 12 big clients, mostly in Europe.
I in a short time, Mr James Kanyije has done what only a few other exporter of fresh produce have ever achieved.
His company successfully exported over 40 tonnes of organic fresh pepper to Europe. He did all that in a space of one month.
And for just those consignments, his KK Foods Company fetched $210,000 (about Shs530m).
In an interview with Prosper Magazine, it emerged that he could have done much better if he was not constrained by supplies issues— mostly arising from the producers end.
How he started
Mr Kanyije ventured into business after getting disgusted with foreign investors whose mission he claims was more leaned towards ripping off the country than developing it.
He said: “I was appalled by the kind of investors we have. Some only care about repatriating profits instead of reinvesting them.”
“And for that I decided to quit my job as a yield controller with Uganda Fish Packers and establish my own company, something I encourage Ugandans to never fear doing - starting your own enterprise,” Mr Kanyije continued.
Over time, he has encouraged his wife who is a medical practitioner to join him run the company, a move, Ms Kanyije said she is enjoying thus far.
Beating the odds
Although Mr Kanyije was orphaned while at school, he never despaired but went on to graduate in 1996 with a diploma in Business Studies from Nakawa Business School.
Shortly after his graduation, the 44-year-old had a stint as a yield controller with Uganda Fish Packers.
But after working with the company for four years, he threw in the towel to partner with some foreigners to start a vegetable and fruit exporting company called Ice mark.
He admits that things didn’t go as smooth as expected, prompting him to finally start KK Foods two years ago although it was registered in early 2004.
Growing the company
Under his leadership, he has managed to turn KK Foods into a billion shilling worth company.
He said: “KK Foods is now worth between Shs 6 to 8 billion. But my dream is to have it turn into a company that will stand the test of time even long after we are no more.”
KK Foods works with at least 10,000 farmers across the agricultural sector. It has created direct employment to 50 people and about 8,000 indirectly.
To widen its connections, it has established presence across the entire region but with emphasis in western Uganda.
Kanyije calls on government to support
As a way forward, Kanyije says that government must establish flights with subsidised export costs whose impact he says will result into more job creation in the sector.
He said countries like India, Ethiopia and Malaysia are already doing it, including neighbouring Rwanda which subsidises total export costs by nearly 50 per cent. Supply issues have also affected him, making him withdraw support in favour of commercial agriculture to homestead production.
He argues that working at home while producing for sale has paid off for him.
He said Uganda is not ready yet for commercial farming because the attitude of the population towards agriculture is not right. He cites an example of youth who nowadays prefer to ride boda bodas in towns and engage in sports betting rather than farming.
Mr Kanyije also suggests that government needs to invest in standards, research and training that will help farmers secure good seeds that will produce quality harvests rather than spend money holding workshops in Kampala training government officials who are out of touch with the farmers.