Retired banker Paul Omara and owner of Virgin Gold, has found a niche in processing sunflower seeds into cooking oil. Christine Kasemiire tells us his investment story.
Mr Paul Omara is an experienced banker. With more than 22 years in the banking sector, he saw the need to take a voluntary early retirement to his village to start an agro-processing firm to transform the lives of people in the northern region and fight poverty. Ngetta Tropical Holdings is the three-year old agro-processing firm behind Virgin Gold cooking oil.
Made from hybrid sun flower seeds imported from South Africa, the oil is said to be authentic, chemical free, pure and vintage.
Mr Omara, the chief executive officer of the cooking oil company, says the seeds are first sent through a seed cleaner and then a cracker or decorticator (machine that pulls off hard husk off the seeds).
He proceeds by cooking them by steam, later crushing them into oil and cake. The oil is stored in a tank and pumped into a neutraliser where it is heated above 150 degrees to kill any organism, extinguish the smell and lighten the oil to separate it from the heavy materials.
Mr Omara says the mechanical process is done by 15 people. Upon completion of the separation, the oil is pumped and purified by a 30 filler press and taken to the final tank for packaging. He says the oil is pure and naturalised by steaming.
Production of Virgin Gold for Mr Omara is no cheap escapade since a lot of time and money has been invested to make sure the job is up to standard.
“I use 10,000 acres of land to grow the seeds and we have been in production for two months in a trail run to produce the sunflower oil. I invested $1.5m (Shs5.4b) to get the project running to this point,” he says.
High capital requirements coupled with high costs of electricity, unstable power and high costs of production caused by transportation of grains, in the midst of a country flooded with bad village roads have not stopped Mr Omara from striving hard to make strides in agriculture.
In a month, Mr Omara has accumulated Shs30m from sales of the cooking oil.
The once chief executive officer of Stanbic Bank in Tanzania aims at introducing digital agriculture to the people of Lira in particular the 32 he employs.
The village population will now have chance to earn a living as they eat healthy foods. He reveals that already, Shs1.2b has been spent buying grains from the locals in cooperatives while the 15 employed are earning money as sources of their livelihood.
He does not stop at employing the locals but also wishes to extend easy and quick digital financial services.
“We are in the process of installing Ngetta obi-pay Agro-business systems that will be used to pay farmers electronically to their mobile wallets or bank accounts,” he plans.
The platform, he explains, will be used to collect and store farmer bio-data and information while equally aiding banks to offer credit to farmers electronically.
For Mr Omara, the weather in Lira is no challenge as he navigates when to plant and harvest. The Ugandan market he believes needs Virgin Gold to live a healthy life. He urges them to ‘Buy Uganda and Build Uganda.’
He asks people to reward efforts of the farmers in Northern Uganda who were for a long time hit by the war and are now rebuilding their lives.
Throughout his business experience, he has learnt that to succeed in business, you need to identify what you can do that will have an impact on people in their communities.
Stay on course and do everything with a passion.
“There is great opportunity in Uganda. All you have to do is have a great idea. You will not need money, people with money will come looking for you.”
Deal in something that is dependent on people, aim to transform lives and that is how you will gain sustainability of your business,” he concluded.