Pamela Anyoti Peronaci is the founder of Sunshine Agro Products Ltd, an agribusiness she founded in 2007 that specializes in the export of agricultural commodities from Uganda to Europe. Under its Asante Mama brand, the company also markets processed items such as herbal teas, moringa powder and cocoa products.
Anyoti Peronaci told How We Made It In Africa that she got the idea to start Sunshine Agro Products when she worked with the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) while with her husband in Rome, Italy.
When her family moved to Brussels, she kept the idea alive by looking for a job where she could trade agricultural commodities from Africa or work for a business that was already doing that. She found an Israeli company, JHB International Trade and Financing, which she knew within the diplomatic circles.
After founding her firm, JHB assisted her with funding and access to the European market. “In a way, I started with the market access. JHB was already trading many commodities, including spices and cocoa,” she told How We Made It In Africa.
She started her business by contracting farmers to grow bird’s eye chillies, with the agreement to buy the harvest. She also supported the farmers with materials like seed, fertilizer and pesticides to a farmer group of 15.
“With the first seeds we planted we didn’t have enough volume for export in the first year and we only managed the first export in 2009. I still remember, it was about 900kg of chillies by air freight. After that, the volumes started shooting up as farmers saw the benefit of being part of the program,” she said.
As her business grew, Anyoti Peronaci decided to diversify her business product range. She set her eyes on cocoa and projected to hire 2,000 farmers within the first three or four years.
“I was aware it was risky to depend on one commodity. The price we fetched for the bird’s eye chillies fluctuated from time to time and I wanted to strengthen the business through diversification.
“When I set up the cocoa project, the aim was to get to 12,000 farmers within the first three or four years. That was the initial goal.”
According to her, the company bought its own farms for the cultivation of cocoa. She continued to grow chillies in eastern Uganda and cocoa in central Uganda. In addition to the cocoa, the company also planted different herbs and crops on its farm following customer demand and queries.
Anyoti Peronaci processes her products in Uganda. The products are either shipped to the company’s office in Belgium for distribution to the European market or sent via airfreight directly to the U.S.
Her products are also certified as organic products. “Getting the certification takes a long time and it is expensive. For the first three years, you have to follow all the organic protocols, so it is quite complex to obtain and then just as difficult to maintain,” she said. “The next step is to become part of the Rainforest Alliance.”
The Ugandan entrepreneur is already focused on the future with plans to start chocolate production in the next few years although chillies will remain her main product. “I think cocoa production will be beneficial for Uganda as a whole and we are hoping to expand the production nationally.”
Born in poverty under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Anyoti Peronaci is now making a fortune exporting her products from Uganda to Europe. The small business coach, who helps young entrepreneurs establish successful agribusinesses, graduated in Political Science and International Law and later earned her MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of London, Wye College (now Imperial College).