Workshop on the quality of loan applications organized by PfD Benin and MFI Partner, FECECAM
Based on the observation that many micro, small and medium-sized enterprises struggle to pass the application review stage with microfinance institutions, PfD initiated this information and awareness session led by FECECAM on the content of a loan application file. Participants were given a detailed explanation of the various components of the file to be submitted, the different types of guarantees, the facilitation of the National Agricultural Development Fund (FNDA), the importance of the professional card and the need to organize themselves into a formal company.
In 2001, Mr. Dieudonne Aladjodjo, a pineapple farmer based in Allada, southern Benin where pineapple is grown, created the Promo Fruit Benin processing company to process Benin’s sweet Sugar Loaf pineapple into juice for local markets. He called the juice IRA, in recognition of his pineapple farmers’ association, Initiative to Promote Pineapple (Initiative pour la Relance de l’Ananas, IRA in French). Mr. Aladjodjo was soon selling IRA pineapple juice in stores and markets throughout Benin.
Over the years. Promo Fruits Benin grew steadily and by 2014 it began to sell IRA pineapple juice in some neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast.
In 2016, Promo Fruit Benin began working with the Pineapple Processing for Export (PINEX) project. Specifically, PINEX trained Promo Fruit staff on best processing and hygiene practices and included it on several trade fairs both in Benin and internationally. Travel to international markets enabled Promo Fruits Benin to execute contracts with buyers in both Senegal and Morocco. Close to 90% of Promo Fruits Benin business is to regional countries, with sales topping $8.1 million in 2021.
To meet increased demand for these international contracts and to help Promo Fruits Benin grow further, PINEX has worked with the company in several key areas: (a) Boosting productivity and pineapple quality by employing more modern farming techniques — in an environmentally sustainable manner that also emphasizes gender sensitivity and better labor practices; (b) Improving physical infrastructure by partnering with them to build a warehouse in February 2019 that is 48 ft in length by 34 ft in width and 12 ft in height; (c) Providing a mechanism for ongoing training of its 2,880 members with a dedicated classroom located beside the warehouse; (d) Improving access to key inputs for producers as the company buys fertilizer and then provides to members on credit, with the cost of the fertilizer being subtracted from the amount Promo Fruits Benin pays the members for their pineapple harvest; (e) Increasing access to credit, specifically training IRA Loan Officers in vetting applications, helping producers draft stronger loan applications, implementing loan management software, and providing tablets and motorcycles for IRA Loan Officers.
For several years, Promo Fruits Benin has aimed to enter the Nigeria market — in the formal sector, not through the Black Market or underground economy. Given that Nigeria is next door to Benin, has a large population of over 200 million persons, has no other countries supplying pineapple in meaningful quantities (unlike in Europe where Costa Rica and its multinational partners Dole and Del Monte have huge market share), and has a structural demand for fresh and processed pineapple products (it produces about four times as much pineapple as Benin but has a population about fifteen times larger), trade potential there is enormous. In October 2020, Promo Fruits Benin finally secured an approval from Nigeria’s National Agency for Food & Drug Administration (NAFDAC), an impressive feat given that agency’s considerable red tape and very large fees for approval. PINEX then began working with Promo Fruits Benin to plan a market tour of Nigerian juice distributors and retailers.
Before traveling to Nigeria, PINEX assisted Promo Fruit Benin to design and print 5,000 IRA juice publicity posters and flyers to be distributed during the market tour. Then from August 16th to 29th 2021, PINEX assisted Mr. Aladjodjo and his marketing manager, Mr. Lantefo, to conduct a two-week market tour within Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city of 22 million people, and to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital in the central part of the country. During the two-week market tour, they visited 20 wholesale and retail juice buyers, promoting IRA juice, which is 100% pineapple juice with no extra sugar or other additives; they gave out hundreds of juice samples so buyers could taste and see the quality themselves
By the end of the tour, Promo Fruit had sold an initial 2,500 cartons of 24 eight-ounce cans of IRA juice (480,000 ounces), valued at $22,000 and had negotiated contracts with three Nigerian companies for 800,000 ounces a month of pineapple and pineapple-ginger blend juices to test out their market. Though these initial Nigerian sales make up a very small percentage of Promo Fruits Benin’s export sales, Mr. Aladjodjo plans a second marketing trip to Nigeria in April 2022 to visit his new customers and expand sales to other cities. His goal is to make IRA pineapple juice as well-known in Nigeria as it is in Benin.