LIRA – Agriculture is among the most hit sectors since Covid-19 emerged two years ago. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni recently announced a lockdown as a mitigating factor to curb the spread of the deadly virus with the country enduring wave after wave.
The second lockdown announced in June for 42 days came to an end this weekend. Since the pronouncement by President Museveni, like other sectors, farmers are stuck with their products.
The suspension of public transport, especially buses, had curtailed the movement of farmers from district to district. Ronald Odongo, a farmer used to enjoy the inter-district market.
For example, a dairy farmer from Kwania would sell their milk in major towns including Lira, Apac and Dokolo among others and earn more. Though it is still possible, the amount of milk such a farmer will sell today has reduced majorly because their market is under lockdown.
Every bad situation creates opportunities; Peter Odongo is among the latter, he is an agro input retail dealer based in Kwania district, who deals in seeds for vegetables and cereals, plus fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides and other agro-chemicals.
Odongo gives advice to clients on the best way to use the products for better yields. To reach the customers and to alert his 143 regular clients, when the new stock arrives, he sends them phone messages (SMS).
“I am using an SMS marketing strategy and this is all about marketing genuine products to customers as well as help them know where to get the stock and at what price,” he said.
“From between Shs 70,000 to shs 100,000 shillings profit I used to make on a daily basis, the SMS strategy has boosted my profit to about shs 200,000 from the stock I sell,” he adds.
Another input dealer Joyce Aceng not only sells her products through the texts sent to customers but also sends them appreciations or reminders. She uses MTN Pakapaka to send messages.
She noted that when she started using SMS marketing, her sales improved by 50%.
“When I started the business three years ago, I would not sell even 10 bags of fertilizers, for instance, in a season yet they were the most wanted by farmers. After adopting SMS marketing, my sales improved and I now sell more than 30 bags in a day,” she reveals.
“I not only use SMS but also advertise on radio because some farmers have no mobile phones but have radios. This has also increased the customer base. ” she added, saying she started with a capital of Shs1.5m and raised it to Shs 6m. Currently, she values the business at shs 30m inclusive of expenses.
The net profits have increased from shs 1m to shs 3m. If business goes well, in the next five years, Aceng expects the net profit to hit shs10m.
Johnson Ojok Ocen, the district Production and Marketing Officer Kwania, also an agronomist explains that:
“Instead of standing behind counters waiting for customers, the dealers actively engage in marketing and promotion by using SMS or radios in order to sell the products to farmers and that is a very good idea that others should borrow,” he said in a phone interview.
Kwania District Commercial Officer, Patrick Bura says; “We know that SMS is a powerful tool that is used by almost everyone but agricultural input businesses were not taking advantage of it. I want to encourage agro-inputs dealers to use SMS for marketing,” he notes.
Selling farm inputs, is a growing business that an increasing number of people in Uganda are engaged in. But it is also a business known to have counterfeits and unscrupulous traders, though there are also several traders who strictly deal in genuine products.
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