FORMER vegetable farmer Kitti Sangchan changed his life five years ago by only growing strawberries, and by building a plant to process the fruit into added-value products such as jam, dried berries and juice, doubling his annual income in the period.
“Normally, I generated income of only Bt2 million a year when I grew vegetables on my 20 rai of land in Samoeng district, Chiang Mai province. After I decided to switch from vegetables to strawberries five years ago, my income doubled to Bt4 million last year, and will reach Bt6 million this year,” Kitti, 53, said in an interview with The Nation recently.
He said he grew about 60 tonnes of strawberries a year on his 20-rai (3.2-hectare) plot. Up to 60 per cent of his total sales are fresh strawberries, with the rest processed into jam, juice and dried berries for sale under the brand Baan Sang Chan.
The products are distributed to tourist destinations in Chiang Mai, as well as to other places such as Phetchabun, Hua Hin and Phuket.
Kitti said his fresh strawberries were sold to suppliers for about Bt20 per kilogram, but after processing, the fruit brought in an average of Bt80 per kilo. After enjoying initial success from processing his own strawberries, Kitti began buying berries from other farmers to process. This is one reason his operation had been able to target strong sales growth this year.
“I decided to borrow Bt600,000 from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives this year to expand my production capacity to boost my sales to Bt6 million this year,” he said.
The loan is guaranteed by the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation.
Kitti said the key to success of an agricultural operation was not only to grow quality fruits or vegetables, but also to have the capacity to process them to add value to serve market demand. This also extends the sales period for the fruits and vegetables they grow, because if they only sell fresh produce, that business has only a short lifetime.