A new hot pepper processing firm has opened in Entebbe, targeting the northern districts of Lira, Kitgum and Gulu for supplies.
Farmers will be required to harvest and dry the pepper and sell it to the firm for processing. According to Jussi Ohisalo, the managing director at Arilio Chili Production Limited, the farmers will be contacted through their small organisations under their North East Chili Producers Association (NECPA).
"We will be able to prepare and process the pepper for export," says Ohisalo. "We are not an aid organisation. We are here to facilitate agriculture in the war-torn region."
Arilio will work with agriculture experts to sensitize villagers on how to increase productivity.
"We will buy a certain amount from them and it's guaranteed that the moment they start harvesting, we have to buy from them," Ohisalo said.
According to NECPA Chairperson Helen Acham, the association has over 466 associations of pepper producers, with each group comprising of about 13-60 members.
"We hope the plant [Arilio] will help us provide the market for the farmers in the near future. Market for our product is a key issue," Acham told The Observer.
Ohisalo says they are likely to buy pepper at Shs 7, 000 a kilogram from NECPA. But NECPA buys from farmers who are not in the groups at a farm-gate price of Shs 5,500 per kilogram. Group members earn Shs 6,000 per kilo.
"At this stage, we may not be able to estimate how much pepper we will get from there, but we want as much as they can produce," Ohisalo said.
On a small scale basis, Arilio has already started producing powdered chill and their first product was launched last month. The firm intends to start producing liquid chilli for both local consumption and export.
While the processed Chili will be mostly for export to America and Finland, a substantial amount of the proceeds from the exports will be put into a special fund that will be channeled to people in the north to sensitize them on sustainable farming.
"We will select communities and engage them in training for two years and we see how it works," Ohisalo says.
"In a way, we don't want to give people money directly; we want them to at least be able to do something when the donors have left."