Thresher Enterprises Suggest Big Potential for Profitability
Manual threshing of crops is a very labor and time intensive process that results in high human energy expenditure and high labor costs. This is especially burdensome to women who make up the majority of the labor force when it comes to threshing. The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) recognized the need for mechanized crop threshers to relieve the burden of stick threshing and increase productivity. SIL’s multi-crop thresher is 80 percent faster, requires only 2 operators, and reduces post-harvest losses by 35 percent. These threshers have been locally produced in Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and are now in use by women's producer groups and private owners. SIL researchers wanted to understand the economics of the threshers for commercial service providers, as little research to date exists on mechanization enterprises in the developing world.
SIL researcher Dr. Edward Martey recently conducted interviews with two women's groups and five private owners on the economics of operating and maintaining a commercial multi-crop thresher service in Northern Ghana. Thresher owners were asked about what types of crops are threshed, their clients, the labor required to operate, and costs associated with transporting the thresher. The daily cost of operating the multi-crop thresher was found to be $37.08 with the cost of labor making up 54 percent of that daily cost.
The sample of multi-crop thresher operators threshed between 20-125 bags of maize, 1-10 bags of soybean, 10-100 bags of sorghum, and 10-30 bags of millet per day and serviced between 2 and 100 customers. The unit market price per bag is $17.70 for maize, $26.36 for soybean, $18.10 for sorghum, and $45.17 for millet. Operators and laborers are typically paid for their work with one bag for every ten bags of crop threshed. The thresher's low cost of operation, at only $37.08 per day, suggests that multi-crop thresher enterprises have the potential to be significantly profitable. The subject of service provider economics requires additional research, which SIL intends to pursue as more commercial threshers come online and data quality improves.
Thresher operators did note the high costs associated with transporting the thresher to the field and occasional breakdowns as significant constraints. Therefore, it is important that private investors continue to invest in the development, advancement, and quality control of multi-crop threshers to improve operating efficiency, further reduce postharvest loss, and increase profitability.
Are you interested in learning how you can invest in the fabrication of more multi-crop threshers across Sub-Saharan Africa? Thinking about hosting a fabricator training workshop in your country? Contact SIL mechanization lead, Dr. Kerry Clark.