The Exporting Quality Program is being implemented in the Dominican Republic. It works with five value chains, pineapple, cocoa, avocados, greenhouse, and Asian vegetables, and takes a “field to fork” approach, providing technical assistance all along the value chain, including producers, packinghouses, and exporters.
Design and implement a mentoring and coaching program for transforming the young entrepreneurs network into a market-oriented export cooperative.
Since November 2017, the program has been working with a group of 30 young entrepreneurs to form a network for the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and contacts. The idea of forming this network came out from the observation of Dominican firms’ current business practices and the emergence of a new exporters generation. Among the aspects needing improvement that were mentioned by international buyers are the lack of consistency, professionalism, communication issues, and fluency.
The young entrepreneurs all belong to individual companies, so competition is ruling the game. Collaboration has been limited to information sharing but some members have shown interest in moving towards a deeper integration. In July 2018, the young entrepreneurs benefited from a two day-training given by two European buyers from the fresh produce and dehydrated fruits industry. They got an insight into the entire agribusiness chain, from farm to fork and have been sensitized on who are the different actors in the chain, who is out to benefit what and how they go about achieving it.
Participants shared personal experiences to confirm realities of the market, experiences with buyers, investors, government institutions and served as witnesses to each other about why they have not been moving forward. In the past, Dominicans had pursued a “push” strategy where they produce and then hope to export without any information on which market segment they would like to enter, the requirements thereof, the key actors, which possible success strategies, the product they are selling (cold chain, competition, future developments). A lot of exporters and producers are therefore learning expensive lessons. It is very clear that a lot of money is being lost to avoidable mistakes.
The young entrepreneurs understood that if they were to grow their business big, they need ed to work on getting big-customer-tenders and getting long-term programs with retailers. They now understand that as individual exporters they will not reach the expected growth they all want because of capacity constraints in terms of infrastructure, capital, workforce. The idea of creating a cooperative emerged as a way to move forward.
The young entrepreneurs understand that the best strategy to adopt is a market approach where a cooperative is established with the mentorship and coaching of buyers. The mentors will support the cooperative to achieve a minimum export target to hold longer-term programs with at least 2 to 3 customers in the EU. The cooperative should be set up based on a minimum export target of 8,060 MT/a year (this figure only includes minimum export targets for avocado, pineapple, and hot peppers but support should not only be limited to those products), as compared to 928 MT being currently exported annually by three exporters. In value, the target is for exporters to go from exporting individually a group total of US$2,567,000/year to exporting as a cooperative a total of US$19,451,770. Once the target is achieved, 20% annual growth is expected to build a strong Dominican brand in the international markets.
In that sense, Exporting Quality will hire a trading company to design and implement a mentoring and coaching program for export. The hired trading company should have the know-how of the fresh produce industry and dehydrated fruits market, with a fresh produce clients’ portfolio and experience in setting up a cooperative for exports in developing countries. The company should be compromised to mentor the young entrepreneurs to form their cooperative and achieved the minimum export target. With this market to field approach, IESC wants to ensure the success and sustainability of the initiative.
Phase I -Preparation
- Design a one-year mentorship program where guidance and insight will be given for the following topics (non-exhaustive list):
- Market trends, suppliers, prices, windows of opportunities so that the cooperative can design a production planning. Identify new potential products. For example, some of the young entrepreneurs have invested in greenhouses and have stopped operating due to a lack of market opportunities. They are very open to growing/dealing new produce as long as there is a market for it.
- Market and clients’ requirements - in terms of product varieties and specific buyers’ requirements -volume, caliber, certification, presentation, etc.
- Ensuring quality all along the value chain by designing best practices guides for each actor of the value chain -producer, harvest, transporter, cooling, packer, etc. Some mistakes have for instance been observed at the packinghouse level which might trigger some quality claims and thus economic losses. For instance: having mixed quality classes in a box, mixed ripening stage pineapple in the same box, not getting boxes manufactures according to pallet sizes which causes pallet instability. To get guidance from buyers is key in order for the coop to promote the right practices and quality standards all along the value chain
- Build a supply calendar, sales, and marketing strategies–know what to supply, when, to whom, and how
- Market prices and seasonality, market trends, growth and projections, business plan and financial schedules
- Business and competency analysis of interested actors
- Supply chain and cooperative service design
- Cooperative structure, services, and management design
- Current asset evaluation and quantification
- Team building and design
- Trips to pre-existing cooperatives/market
- Business contracts
- Review the program with IESC technical team and the young entrepreneurs
Deliverables for Phase I:
- Before starting the mentorship, deliver an in-depth written strategy including the one-year program with topics to be covered, tasks for each session, expected outputs
Level of Effort:
- Phase I has an estimated level of effort of 7 days (total)
Phase II –Mentorship program
- Prepare monthly training sessions together with IESC technical team and the young entrepreneurs
- Prepare training materials including, but not limited to, powerpoint presentations, handouts, and practical exercises and deliver monthly trainings. Give specific assignments to the young entrepreneurs on which the next sessions will be built upon
- Inform about the level of efforts required by the young entrepreneurs and additional support being eventually needed so that IESC may hire local consultant or volunteers to provide extra support
- As needed, give follow up remotely to the tasks assigned between sessions
- Inform IESC of any unexpected obstacles that might impact the implementation of the mentorship program. Provide constant feedback and recommendations to adjust original approach if needed
- Organize meetings with key informants/buyers during 2019 Fruit Logistica trade show. Prepare the young entrepreneurs for the meetings, assist the group during the mission
- Support increased sales volume and value of DR products in the EU to 8,060 MT and US$19,451,770 as part of this effort - through the identification of buyers, preparation of exporters, and guiding contracting and sales successfully through the process
- Provide monthly progress reports to IESC’s technical team
- At the end of the mentorship program provide a final report highlighting the status of the cooperative and recommendations for sustainability as well as other information as needed.
Deliverables for Phase II
- Progress report for each monthly session
- Cooperative Structure and design
- Cooperative’s operational departments’ set up and goals
- Procurement training plan
- Product and production planning guidance
- Warehouse management training
- Weekly market price information
- Monthly market trend report
- Business plan formulation guidance
- Business plan validation
- Preparation for future market trends
- Sales and marketing strategy
- Sales facilitation
- Final report with recommendations and follow-up actions for sustainability.
Level of Effort:
- Phase II will require a level of effort of up to one person for about 8 days/month/person for twelve months (including preparation days, travel days and days in the DR and remote follow up days). If an additional person is required for the monthly visits to the DR, it will be able to participate for a maximum of 6 visits. Maximum expected level of effort is 120 days.
- The personnel from the selected company will be required to travel to the Dominican Republic once a month for about 2 days in country .
The selected company must have personnel with the following qualifications:
- 2+ years of experience as international buyers, agents in the fresh produce industry and dehydrated fruits market
- Experience as a trading agent evolving in the fresh produce industry and dehydrated fruits market
- Experience helping developing country producers navigate fresh produce market dynamics and seize opportunities to grow their business
- Understanding of fresh produce and dehydrated fruits market trends and client specific requirements and have solid business relationships with buyers of different kinds (importers, retailers, etc.)
- Experience mentoring/setting-up cooperative in developing countries
- Good understanding of the challenges faced by Dominican producers and exporters
- Experience working with young entrepreneurs and in empowerment and leadership-development initiatives
- Fluent in English. Spanish language skills a plus, but not required.
Deadline for applications is August 24, 2018. No emails or calls, please