The Minister in Charge of Cooperatives in the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Cooperatives, Fredrick Ngobi Gume has said that Soroti Fruit Factory, the manufacturers of Teju Juice in the eastern district of Soroti is a dream come true.
Gume was yesterday commissioning the new mango line at the factory when he said: “For every step you move, you get a strategic challenge but the fruit growers’ cooperative union is its work. Now, the government has also done its work but the other challenge we have is to enlarge and improve on the lines of production such that we can produce more and be able to satisfy the market. This is a dream come true and I would like to assure the people of the region that this is Gold.
People seated on Gold and I would like to encourage. Exploit the opportunities. UDC is capitalized. Fruit Factory has to break even. It needs support.”
The new line worth Shs 6.5 billion means growth, from processing 40 tons of mangoes per day to 120 tons per day.
“What we want is to produce more, sell more, and earn more than we have economies of scale,” he says.
According to Gume, Soroti Fruit Factory’s story is now coming true.
“I have been here before. I have interfaced with the fruit growers’ cooperative union outside the premises. I know what their complaints were. I was also here still in the same capacity when the President came to launch this factory. I am privileged to be here again to see the technical launch of yet another line in the production. Now, what I have discovered is that the story is now coming true. Think big, start small. If you analyze how the cooperatives or farmers within the region were selling their mangoes and when you analyze the trucks loaded with mangoes and the oranges going through a process which for us we as men or as economists we call value addition, and then when you look at the finished product like this, then you know we are headed in the right direction,” he says.
Gume says that he has heard of several stories about the factory of how the investment had failed and the ambitions shuttered but says the reality has set the Vision free.
“We have heard several stories, political or otherwise. They were saying that this factory had failed and our ambitions were shuttered. Now reality has set us free. We can see more raw materials being consumed here and I have been informed that now the demand for these products is bigger than the supply. That is already also a challenge,” Gume says.
According to the Uganda Development Corporation Executive Director, Dr. Patrick Birungi, apart from increased production, the new line can now produce locally made mangoes.
“We expect it (new line) to be consuming about 120 tons per day of fruits. So, fruits being produced in this region, now we can process the mango. We were processing oranges at 48 tons per day but now we can process 120 tons of mangoes alone. This machine can now consume the locally produced mangoes which was not the case previously. During the mango season, we have enough fruits around this area but we can also go to other parts of the country,” Dr. Birungi says.
He adds that the Factory has put in place interventions to make sure that farmers produce quality fruits.
“We are providing extension services to our farmers (within our capacity). Secondly, MAAIF extension officers are helping us improve the quality. Thirdly, we are also in discussion with MAAIF to give us Odina farm (just nearby here) so that we can use it as a demonstration farm for farmers to produce quality fruits,” he says.
The factory’s major challenge now, according to Dr. Birungi is that as much as the Factory improves capacity now, “we still need more because the fruits here are a lot. But this machine has helped address the challenge of de-stoning (peeling off the garbage) and maintaining the juice only. Now the de-stoning is being done internally.”
In the future, Dr. Birungi says the Factory is in discussion with Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to have additional land behind the Factory.
On the new land, he says, “we shall install more processing and packaging lines for the ready to drink products.”
Dr. Biorungi says that the market has responded very well to Teju Juice.
“We have our products in almost all supermarkets across the country. Our challenge has been production because the market is receiving us very well,” he says.
Soroti Fruit Factory Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Ndawula Kakyukyu, says that the factory urgently needs expansion. According to Ndawula, the expansion will help in uptake of fruits.
“We are planning to get an expansion for the orange line. We need a packaging line for the ready to drink juice,” he says.
In the midterm, he adds, “we are looking at taking fruits from this region at between 50 and 80 tons.”
But he is optimistic that with the government’s commitment, there will be expansion of the Factory.
But like many other businesses, Ndawula says the Factory is also facing challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown.
Outside this, he says politicians have proven to be experts about the project.
“They keep pasting statements which they are not sure about,” he says.