Matunda adds value to farmers’ pineapples

Saturday May 11 2019

Pineapples are placed on a steel tray for

Pineapples are placed on a steel tray for washing before slicing. Photo by Edgar R. Batte.  

By Edgar R. Batte

In their observation, Matunda Hub, an agribusiness incubator based in Soroti District, the fruit farmers in Teso sub-region, in eastern Uganda, have for long complained of inadequate access to the market as well as the knowledge to handle agribusiness.

To provide a solution, it has considered the prospects of building their fruit revolution with other farmers and are currently buying pineapple from them and adding value to it.
Pineapple is a tropical and sub-tropical fruit grown in many African countries. Some of the other key pineapple growing areas include Kasana-Luweero and Kayunga districts.

Supporting farmers
The hub’s sales and marketing strategist, Denis Olupot, says they basically support small start-ups in the fruit value chain in the Teso region. The company aims at incubating 40 youth enterprises and creates 120 direct jobs as well as avenues for sustainable income for 200 farmers from the sub-region within the first year of operation.

“Currently in our data base, we manage a farmer portfolio of 2,500 fruit farmers. These we were able to mobilise through community groups and cooperatives that were self-managed and we established an understanding to support them through incubator programmes where they eventually became full stakeholders of Matunda Hub,” Olupot explains.

Drying pineapples
The company were exhibitors at this year’s Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) expo at Kololo Independence grounds where they showcased dried pineapple fruit as value addition to the pineapple fruit.

He says the amount of pineapple collected in a month varies with the demand the hub has on the market against what the farmers have been able to harvest. Its collection normally fluctuates between 90 and 150 bags in two months of harvest.

The cost of a pineapple normally ranges from Shs2,500 and Shs3,000 depending on the weight and readiness to sun solar drying. Olupot adds that there is no particular type or variety that Matunda specifically buys.

They take all fruit as good fruit to which they add value in post-harvest processes. He adds, during sun solar drying, they process the pineapple to a fine edible snack making sure that it still meets the consumers’ nutritional demands. It is later packaged in a portable small bag ready for the market.

“Our clientele in the meantime is mostly the cafés and organisations in urban areas. The prices also vary depending on the demand and available of the fruit snack but normally it ranges between Shs3,000 and Shs5,000,” the sales and marketing strategist adds.

“The post-harvest practices are normally on and off farm. And these are many but to ensure quality fruit we encourage farmers to have clean safe storage facilities to lessen the possibilities of fermentation before and after sun drying.” Olupot further explains, “We package in weights of 30 grams, 50 grams and 80 grams respectively. Matunda hub is still a growing agribusiness incubator with a minimum staffing of five including the top management acting as the chief steerers of the teams handling departments of marketing and sales, human resource and accounting plus those ensuring the quality of the snack.”

The hub packages up to 50 kilogrammes of the dried snack in to smaller units of grams to fit the demands.

The entrepreneurial journey is not without its shares of challenges. It is mostly the post-harvest difficulties to getting the packaging material of the snack. When they were setting up, on harvesting, the agribusiness incubator multiplied the labour from within and around the farming communities.
Today, it has enough harvest to meet the demands over time. The packing is also pretty accessible. As a social enterprise, the plans are normally set on a quarterly basis.
In the first quarter, they concentrated efforts on conducting refreshers for all fruit farmers in their database as well as expanding the processing unit to get ready to meet the export demands.

Matunda hub has a management team that comprises the managing director, Carina Juilfs. Ben Akure is the agricultural advisor and specialist. According to Kabiza Wilderness Safaris, tourism company, pineapple is popular among tourists.
“Visitors to Uganda rave about Ugandan pineapples – they cannot believe the sweetness. The texture and how juicy they are. The pineapple did not originate in Uganda, but pineapples were perfected in Uganda. The bursting with taste, zesty pineapples is one reason that visitors keep coming back to Uganda since exports of the Uganda’s tasty pineapple reach few countries,” their online platform states, in part.