By Mark Kawalya
Natureripe is an agro-processing firm that has been adding value to fruits since 2008. Heralded by Fatma Riyami who started growing mangoes as a hobby in 1992 until she learned of the huge potential and success the fruit has in neighboring Kenya. She redoubled her efforts and set her eyes on exporting the fruit, which came to realization eight years later. She was unable to get financial assistance from banks to satisfy the large orders, so she raised capital from family and friends, along with boosting her volumes by acquiring fruit from out-growers. She registered NatureRipe Kilimanjaro Ltd in 2000, with most of her exports going to the Middle East.
However, fresh fruit exportation has many challenges that she has had to weather, such as varying quality of mangoes, insufficient infrastructure, unreliable transportation, and the need for substantial sums of capital.
In 2008, Riyami decided to steer the business along a different path. She focused her attention on the local market and shifted her modus operandum to become an agro-processor. She also included other crops in her portfolio, such as roasted cashew nuts and peanuts. NatureRipe began a honey processing and distribution facility in 2011 in collaboration with local beekeepers.
In 2012, the firm set up its digital platform, which showcased the firm’s business practices and attracted many people who wanted to model the establishment’s best practices. The business gained traction that was unlike anything they had experienced in the past.
“It is like the doors to the outside world suddenly opened,” Fatma said in a previous interview. Due to this attention, the firm started a training arm that equips other farmers in agro-processing and fruit agriculture.
NatureRipe has now grown into a market link for youth and women who process mangoes, fruit growers, cashew nuts and beekeepers. Owing to its online presence, companies from other parts of the world have partnered with the firm. For example, a Dutch farm used the NatureRipe orchard to carry out trials on the viability of commencing seed growth in Tanzania’s coastal areas.
The firm runs seven production lines, which include mango and chili-based sauces, mango pickles, roasted cashew nuts and peanuts, as well as honey and cashew nut candy bars. It supplies supermarkets in six Tanzanian regions, along with hotels, restaurants and corporate companies.