Despite 70% of Timor-Leste’s farming population cultivating maize, it has never been commercially available. This is due to high levels of aflatoxin (poisonous mould that occurs naturally over time in decaying grain), lack of volume and high prices.
In Timor-Leste, the demand for grain is much higher than the supply. Smallholder farmers lack the knowledge and capital to invest in improving grain quality and currently, poor post-harvest handling of the grain means that aflatoxin poisoning can happen at any part of the process – making risk management nearly impossible. As such, an aggregator is required to fill this role to provide storage for the large volume of grain necessary and maintain quality for extended periods, while also meeting the demand dictated by specific production cycles.
Sarjoli Unipessoal is a grain trading business based in Same with the potential to serve as an aggregator working with small scale maize producing households. Their primary buyer is Timor Global but they also sell to other small-scale processors and Taibessi market. Introducing an aggregator like Sarjoli can play a strategic role in eliminating some of the barriers faced in maize production.
MDF will support Sarjoli with technical advice and assistance to set up the first grain storage and drying facility in Timor-Leste, with an aim to meet market demand in 2018 and 2019. If successful, with the improved cash flow, Sarjoli will be in a strong position to further expand the business. If successful in maize production there is scope for the business to unlock trade for many products and there is the potential to expand into other markets like peanuts, cassava and soy beans. The establishment of this aggregator function also has the potential to work as a trigger for agricultural commercialisation.