[Interview] Lateef Wiredu, CEO, Ilaha Ghana Company Ltd
Often regarded as one of the orphan crops as more farmers abandon it for more modern crops, the West African yam is making a big come back and conquering international markets thanks to the value addition efforts of Lateef Apau Wiredu, the owner and CEO of Ilaha Ghana Company Limited that specializes in the farming and export of agricultural products.
The company has been working with farmers through an out grower scheme in its signature crop, the yam, and then processing the fresh yams into frozen sliced precooked yam and chips.
This, in a bid to sate the growing appetite from a ballooning West African middle class and diaspora keen on their health.
Already the company has captured the Spain, South Africa, UK, Netherlands and Belgium markets.
Lateef talked to Africa Business Communities about building the startup from ground zero, uplifting farmers to earn more and the ultimate dream of transforming his company into an export powerhouse.
Introduce your company
Ilaha Ghana Company Limited is a Ghanaian owned company registered with Ghana’s Registrar General’s Department. Our principal activities include farming, export of agricultural products with huge share in the yam export market. Ilaha processes fresh yams into frozen sliced pre-cooked yam and chips. The yam slices and chips processing is anticipated to be a value addition breakthrough on yam storage.
Ilaha is licensed by National Food Buffer Stock Company to buy Maize, Rice and Soya Beans from farmers at farm gate terms and conditions for the Buffer stock Company.
The company is also a Ghana Export Promotion Authority certified exporter of Fresh Yams from Ghana to Spain, South Africa, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Belgium. We have been in the export of yam business since 2014
Our goal is to become the leading company in agribusiness whose products and services benchmark international standards while keeping to safety and health measures.
Where is your company located?
Ilaha is located in Accra, Ghana with our Pack-House located in Agyeikojo in the Ashaiman Municipality in South Ghana.
When was it founded and by who?
On 15th May 2013, Lateef Apau Wiredu founded the Ilaha Ghana Company Limited and got it registered as a limited liability firm by the Registrar-General’s Department under sections 27 and 28 of the Companies Act, 1963. Entitled to commence business with effect from 17th May, 2013. Mr. Lateef Apau Wiredu, the Chief Executive Officer has controlling shares of over 96 per cent. A career banker with the Agricultural Development Bank, Mr Abu Issah Haid, owns the remaining shares of the company.
How is the company funded?
The company runs on capital invested by the owners. The major revenue support for the company are proceeds generated from the company’s principal business activities.
What are your company’s Unique Selling Points?
Our unique selling propositions are the freshness of our products purchased or produced, diligent mode of sorting and selection of farm produce for export, our unbending determination to meet and improve on international standards, and attractive packaging driven by innovation and research on consumer needs.
How has the market responded to your products?
On a need assessment basis, the market available to Ilaha are European consumers and business retails with huge emphasis on food safety. With a growing West African population across continents, our company leads the pack in supplying food needs of Africans abroad.
The market identifies with our distinct packaging and our food produce especially the yams variety as sweet and unique. Ilaha is introducing a new yam food culture in hotels, restaurants and households with its frozen sliced pre-cooked yam and chips in meeting the fast food culture and convenience sought by an ever growing middle class in Africa
Who are your clients?
Out client base are off-taker companies in Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and South Africa who imports and supplies to wholesaler outlets for onward distribution to African shops. We supply retailer shops and market centers in the domestic and foreign markets as well.
What are the ambitions of the company?
Our goal is to become the leading company in agribusiness with products and services that benchmarks international standards whiles keeping to safety and health measures.
We are structured to dominate the world market as the most viable and trustworthy agricultural business entity that supplies quality food packaged in unbeatable brands and product innovation.
What does your company need to grow and prosper?
Ilaha looks forward to win-win investment in building a nucleus farm for the development of yam sets and ultimately the cultivation of fresh yams to ensure affordable and reliable supply of the Puna variety all year round.
We need investments into product innovation and capital for a cold room facility for storage of our products.
Ihala needs leverages into new market spaces and networks that secures trustworthy clients.
What is the latest news from your company?
Ilaha is running a program with out-growers in the Northern part of Ghana where poverty is endemic. This is in line with our greatest objective to guarantee price and market for their farming activities and by extension, improve their local economy. We are excited about the answers this program renders to post harvest losses which is a major cause of poverty among rural dwellers in African countries.
We have acquired a technology for the storage of yams in a partnership research with the Food Research Institute of the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research of Ghana, CSIR. The response from hotel chief chefs in our market piloting campaign have been overwhelming. A sample market survey run by the CSIR on the University of Ghana has an approval rating of about 78% from the students’ community.