Slovenian Business in Senegal—From Powdered Milk Production to Peanut Shelling

“Given the peculiarities of European thinking, in Senegal everything is organized very differently,” Niko Prodan says. “It is necessary to adapt. However, we were firmly following our own way. Now the work is going well.”

Niko Prodan and his partners built the factory in Touba in 2010. It annually produces 17,000 tons of shelled peanuts and is the largest factory in Senegal in this segment.

How have you started your business in Senegal?

Accidentally. As a tourist, I met there a man, who later visited me in Slovenia. He was interested in the products to be exported to Senegal. We started supplying there powdered milk from the Pomurje dairy plants. We were engaged in this business for about a couple of years. When we started dealing with peanuts, we first obtained a buy-back concession in some regions of the country.

We sold peanuts to local oil mills, but when the opportunity to export appeared, we tried to find buyers in Europe. We entered into a contract with the Soko Štark Company and realized that the only condition for the timely fulfilment of contractual obligations is to have our own factory. Otherwise, you are dependent on other’s promises; conditions change, the prices too…

Did you purchase an existing company or invest in a new one?

We built a new factory in the city of Touba. This is the second largest city of Senegal. The company started working in 2008, and the factory was opened in 2010.

From a legal point of view, Senslo is a Senegalese company. Is it difficult for a foreigner to establish a company?

No, it is easy to establish a company. However, further work is quite another topic.

What is the main difficulty in the organization of a production company?

Given the specific features of our work and the European way of thinking, in Senegal everything is organized very differently. It is necessary to adapt. The majority of people get disappointed rather quickly. However, we were firmly following our own way. At first, there were many problems, and now work is going well.

Whom do you employ?

Management personnel and heads of departments work with us on an ongoing basis, so we mostly hire seasonal workers. When production goes, the factory employs 500 people.

Is your production seasonal?

We start gathering peanut when it finishes blossoming. We have recently planted new peanuts, and thus the factory is temporarily closed. We will start working again somewhere in November and continue until the end of April or May, depending on the crop yield.

Is peanut cultivation the ultimate goal or are you planning to expand the production with higher levels of processing, with greater added value?

We are not going to produce the final product. If engaged in roasting peanuts, you have to keep in mind the shelf life and that is a problem. You have to sell it in a timely manner to the end user. Currently, raw peanuts allow us to cover the volume of works, which is reasonable in terms of supply contracts that we can enter. The existing peanut growing opportunities are still promising, but now the purchasing capacity is not that high. However, the demand, especially in China, usually exceeds the supply.

What is an average salary in your company?

An average worker receives 150 euros per month, which is a good income according to the local standards. However, workers are employed only half a year. For example, waiters in Senegal earn from 50 to 60 euros per month.

What do we eat?

Peanuts or kikiriki (earthnuts) is a field plant that grows in the tropics and subtropics. It originates from South America. The plant refers to the bean crops. It is a relative of beans and peas, but its pods are formed in the earth. In total, 29 million tons of peanuts are annually grown worldwide. The biggest part is used in the food industry for the preparation of sweet and salty snacks as well as peanut butter.