Creating your own market

Written By : Source: MINISTRY OF Primary Industries. Whenever there is a business opportunity, a business-minded person will always be the first to spot it and take advantage. While some
27 May 2011 12:00

image Written By : Source: MINISTRY OF Primary Industries. Whenever there is a business opportunity, a business-minded person will always be the first to spot it and take advantage.
While some create their opportunities, some come by them by mere coincidence or accidents. Once they realise what they have, they grab hold of it, nurture it and build it up slowly until it becomes a reality.
Take the case of Don Pickering (62) and his wife, Eileen, of Taveuni who just love their eggs for breakfast.
Away in Taveuni, they could not get fresh eggs regularly and majority of the ones they get from the shops are bad when they buy them. So they decided to raise chicken on their farm near the Matei Airstrip to supply them with fresh eggs.
“We have suffered for a long time with rotten eggs coming into the shops here”, Mr Pickering recalls.
“You buy a dozen eggs and on average you will get two to three bad ones and there are times when there are no eggs at all in Taveuni and it is terrible especially for my wife and I as we like our eggs”.
“You know when you buy a crate of eggs here, the first thing you do is smell it because that is the only way you can tell how good the eggs are”.
His wife, Eileen, interrupts to say that because the eggs they were buying from the shops were terrible, they decided to start their own layer farm.
“Because we like our eggs and we decided to get a few chickens in”.
“The next thing, the chickens were laying more eggs then we could eat so we said to our friends, hey you want some eggs? And that’s how it went”.
Mr Pickering continued saying that he then built a fence and started bringing the chicken in to free range inside the fence.
“It started slowly until word got around and suddenly, we had a lot of demand coming in, more than we can supply”.
“There is a huge demand for eggs in Taveuni and we are getting inquiries from people around here and as far as Qeleni and Qamea who want to buy fresh eggs”.
Mr Pickering said there’s growing demand for fresh eggs because it was the cheapest form of protein and an easy to prepare lunch for school children.
“The education department is trying to push education amongst the people and another emphasis was on breakfast for kids going to school to also make sure that they have a good school lunch”.
“The cheapest form of protein, which you can possibly get and as Rami Sami’s Ads clearly states, is eggs”.
“The price for eggs in the shops around here is about $5.50 a dozen”.
Mr Pickering, who owns a seven-acre freehold property right besides the Matei Airstrip said if they could supply the locals and the schools with fresh eggs, it would be big boost to the locals and school children having a cheap and excellent source of protein in their diet.
“Now people up in Qeleni and even from Qamea are enquiring about our fresh eggs and at the moment we can’t produce enough to be able to supply them”.
“What we are doing is just handling this small area although we would like to be able increase to meet the local demand”.
The husband and wife team are now working very hard to expand and modernise their farm to meet the growing demand for eggs on the island.
To do this, there are key issues they had to resolve first and they shared this with the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture Lieutenant-Colonel Mason Smith when he visited them.
“We bought two layer cages and had them shipped in pieces from Suva and assembled them on the farm because it was very expensive to ship in the assembled ones”.
“The cages hold more than 60 birds but at the moment, I am sticking with 60 as it can be hot around here and that number will keep the birds comfortable”.
“I am sorry for the birds that we have to stick them into something like this, but the eggs come up consistent and it saves time when compared to free ranging where you have to search and retrieve the eggs”.
The marine engineer with two years of farming experience said that is was a big job to assemble the cage “with a lot of binding wire and all that”, but he is happy with the job he had done.
According to Mr Pickering the biggest problem that he had to grapple with is the cost of transportation for cages and also for poultry feed.
“You cannot change much in what the millers can supply and you cannot change much in what the shippers charge in freight costs”, he informed Mr Smith,
“Surely with the Government’s “Look North Policy”, if there is some duty concession that makes a reduction in the costs, so that instead of the feed miller giving us a special price, we get a reduction in the cost under this “Look North Policy”, which the miller can take from the duty on those items so that the miller gets an incentive to sell at a cheaper price, it would be of great assistance to us”.
“We suffer from transport costs and there is nothing much we can do when the price of diesel goes up, everything else goes up”. Mr Smith also said that another cost that rural farmers like him will have to look at when establishing a poultry farm is the cost of environmental impact study (EIA).
“We want to go by the rules and regulation so I went down to see the Health Inspector and he is quite enthusiastic about this whole thing”.
“Part of the thing is we have to get in touch with the environment department and they told us that to get and EIA
study and all this kind of thing costs a lot of money.
“Now somehow, there has to be some way where people in the rural area who are trying to start small can be assisted in this area”.
In addition to those costs, Mr Pickering said that they were also required to have a Hawker’s Licence to be able to sell their eggs.
“It costs $800 just to be able to sell your eggs and we are struggling as it is to get established and have not made any sale yet”.
Mr Smith informed Mr Pickering that he will look into the issues that he has brought up and also liaises with his counterpart in the respective ministries to see how Government can assist.
Mr Pickering has one fulltime labourer working with him and when the need arises he hires more labourers as he is establishing his farm. Apart from layer farming he is also raising meat birds and cockerels.
“I sell cockerels at $5 each with a minimum of five you have to buy. The locals around here just love this kind of thing. I had 90 and now there is only a few left”.
Constraints apart, Mr Pickering has a dream for Taveuni to produce and supply their own eggs and to do that he is taking the first step to establishment of ‘a’ model layer farm with two sets of “A’’ shape layer battery cage with capacity of holding 180 birds, construction of poultry shed and a septic pit for proper disposal of waste material.
“We have paid for a digger to come and clear the area which I have earmarked for the poultry shed and all that and livestock officer Mohammed Safeen has been very, very helpful in assisting us to try and get government funding for the project”.
Mr Safeen said a proposal for the project was submitted last November for Government assessment for funding this year.
“I have taken the first step just in case and see that pile of mud there, I am going to dig a big hole there and my poultry shed will be built near it and we will have to drain off into that big hole which will be like a sump pit”.
“Every now and then, we are going to collect all the manure and hose down the remaining manure to keep it hygienic”.
According to Mr Safeen, Mr Pickering has 500 layer birds, 50 layer pullets, 50 cockerels and 200 meat birds and has already invested over $10,000 into the project.
“Mr Pickering is very passionate about this project and you can see the sacrifice and commitment he has made to make his dream a reality”, Mr Safeen said.
“He also dream of setting up a model farm for Taveuni farmers that include a hatchery to supply chicks to farmers, vegetable farm and an established market and livestock feed that he formulated”.
“In addition, he intends to supply poultry manure to interested farmers on the island and I am confident that given his energy and drive that those thing will soon be realties”.
Mr Pickering who considers himself a novice with only two years of farming experience behind him said he was running his project through trial and error.
“Sometime when there is a feed problem, I scrape coconuts and mix it all together with cassava and feed them to the chicks and they seem to love it”.
“I did some research over the internet on cassava and in Africa; they have arsenic in their tapioca, which is not in the Sarava variety that we grow in Taveuni”.
“My son in Australia is trying to find a mulcher that he can bring down and use that to chop down the cassava and use it to feed the chicks”.
Unlike many of us who dream, Mr Pickering is doing the hard yards to ensure that his dreams eventuate and he is not afraid to make the sacrifice and take the risk knowing that he is on to a good thing that will not only rake in money but also contribute to the health and diet of the local community.
Currently he is simply trying to tap into supplying eggs into the local population and schools.
When he expands, modernises his farm and fully addresses the hygiene issues, he has that opportunity to supply the hotels and resorts around Matei and the whole of Taveuni.
He also has that opportunity to look across the water and dreams of one day supplying Taveuni fresh eggs to the international hotels in Qamea and another being built on Kaibu Island in Yacata.

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