By ABCafrica reporter
Pepper farming has turned into a lucrative economic venture for majority youth across the country. In an interview with media recently; Denis Olam, based in Gulu district, says pepper farming for export is a profitable venture. He owns one acre farm at Pageya village, where his green bell pepper garden is located. It is these gardens that are used as a seed multiplication site, storage facility and a research unit where he currently pilots two innovative projects on pepper and poultry.
Olam also has a four acre production site in Obul, Kochgoma Sub-county, Nwoya District, where the bulk of his hot pepper is grown. Unlike most farmers who retail their produce, he mainly grows pepper for export. It is while there that he got a scholarship to study a Bachelor’s degree in Crop Science at Kyambogo University in 2010. “I took to horticulture, and grew three acres of tomatoes while I piloted hot pepper growing after researching about it”, he said.
Olam said he discovered the viability of hot pepper growing through the Internet, after reading a young man’s story about making Shs48 million in hot pepper export. He visited the young man at his farm in Mukono District and was convinced that he too could succeed. “He told me everything, guided me to the buyers and seed sellers where I started from,” Olam said. From his 2015 records, Olam invested Shs5.6m on four acres and earned Shs26m from it. This money enabled him open up a consultation firm which fetches him Shs 8m annually.He invested Shs780,000. This fetched him profits of Shs 3.5m. “In my second year of production, I increased my acreage and made of Shs7m.
In 2015, he piloted the construction of a pepper solar dryer; that he used to dry 400 kg of hot pepper currently in his stores.“ peppers cannot be dried in the sun and can only be dried using solar power, and its dried form is currently on high demand in the US. ” Olam shares. The machine means the excess pepper they dump during periods of low prices will be put to maximum use.
Apart from building and experimenting a kerosene hatchery at his Pageya-based farm, Olam also makes pesticides and fertilizers from low grade and moth-infested pepper and has been supplying them to farmers and agro-dealers in the sub-region for the past one year.
For the few years Olam has been exporting hot pepper, he believes that wooing more than 100 farmers to join him in pepper growing has so far been his biggest achievement since the big profits earned by farmers, has changed their lives and farming dimensions. Olam’s records show that 68 farmers are active and have at least an acre of pepper; where they earned not less than Shs10m from pepper last year.
As a professional farmer and a consultant, Olam trains farmers on agronomy, reaping big from farming and on animal management at no cost.
Regarding his marketing skills, Olam says; he had networked early. “I had established my market before even growing pepper. I linked with friends and companies who export and when I got to plant, I knew where the market was,” he said. Even when he sells that ripe pepper to Europe (with Britain statistically being the biggest consumer of Uganda pepper), Olam says last year he discovered high demand for raw (green) pepper in Asian countries.“It is equally good for us to market in Asia since farmers whose fields are infested by moths can sell off their pepper while green before they are eaten up by moths.” He added that last year, the local market in Gulu District consumed only 93kg, meaning few people know about or eat hot pepper. Olam’s records show that he now receives orders between 100 to 200 export boxes of hot pepper on a weekly basis.
“As farmers we should embrace cash crops and a farmer should not think of huge profits first as he joins commercial farming, rather than setting a foundation from which the huge profits come after,” he says.
Olam says he is already sampling okra, bird eye chilli and pumpkins and hopes to expand production to other farmers in next year. He says he is in the final stages of consultations with the ministries of Trade and Agriculture to have a packaging and screening unit in Gulu district, so that they can begin processing and doing direct export from Gulu but not through middlemen, as is the practice.