Guide to food drying

Food drying has significant development potential in formal and informal food processing sectors of Africa and other developing countries. New income-generating activities can be introduced that respond both to the need to preserve harvests and to urban consumers demand for stable, ready-to-use products.
However, the success of a drying bu {mosimage}Food drying has significant development potential in formal and informal food processing sectors of Africa and other developing countries. New income-generating activities can be introduced that respond both to the need to preserve harvests and to urban consumers demand for stable, ready-to-use products.
However, the success of a drying business does not just depend on mastering appropriate technology. Project planning, business management and commercial approach are equally important.
To help prospective entrepreneurs setting up projects, GERES, a French non-governmental organisation (NGO) which has been working in the field of food drying for more than 10 years, has published a step-by-step-guide.
Supporting agencies such as donors, NGOs and research and development organizations, will also find the book, Setting up a food drying business by food production engineer Fabrice Thuillier, useful.
A chapter is devoted to the setting-up of a project and covers market identification, technical choices, quality processes and economic analysis.
Another chapter includes technical notes on the main dryers available. Also discussed are possibilities for improving the profitability of drying and adapting dryers to suit the needs of businesses.
Extensive appendices provide document templates, sample business analyses and vital reference information with names and addresses of technical and training centres, support consultants and research institutions in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries; and equipment suppliers in Europe.
The book stresses the need for entrepreneurs to form partnerships with individuals, organisations or technical support programmes which are able to guide and support in areas such as technical, financial, commercial, accounting and management. GERES itself offers a partnership that it calls ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¢™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦šÃ‚¡™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¬™ Ã‚¬šÃ‚¦™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…€œaccompanying¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¢™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦šÃ‚¡™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¬?.
Markets
The market study is the most important stage in designing a project, according to the book. It advises to start with consumers needs and eating styles, and their possible development, with a view to producing processed products that are well adapted to consumers requirements.
The next stage involves giving the product a specific position, so that it can be clearly distinguished from the opposition.
Once target and positioning have been defined, marketing strategy should be built around four areas:

  • Product policy: The product must be designed on the basis of customers expectations. The inherent characteristics (formula, design, dstandards) must be fixed and the packaging designed.
  • Pricing policy: Price plays and important role in buying behaviour. Fixing prices depends on factors such as cost of finished product; competitors prices; the aims pursued (a high price policy prjocts and image of quality or luxury, low prices attract most costumers);
  • Distribution strategy: Choice of distribution network should guarantee the most efficient access possible; high quality shop presentation; and regular flow in terms of quantity and frequency.
  • Promotion: The means can be varied ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¢™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦šÃ‚¡™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¬™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¬¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ¬™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã‚¦ÃƒÆ’¬¦¬Å“ direct sales, advertsing, sales promotion, promotion on packaging, etc. Only businesses that alreqdy have production and sales experience should consider exporting. It is necessary to have good command of the internal market, to have sound finances and to produce products of recognized qaulity before considering exports, according to the book.
    Choosing a dryer
    The book provides sources of technical information on dryers in its bibliography. It says the range of dryers adapted to small-scale entreprise is limited, as a result of the relatively short history of small-scale drying.
    The criteria that have guided the development of drying machines have long rested on the principle of ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¢™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦šÃ‚¡™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¬™ Ã‚¬šÃ‚¦™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…€œappropriate technology¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¢™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦šÃ‚¡™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¬?: simple, robust, reproducible, inexpensive. Two other criteria should be added:
  • Equipment for flexible usage, that can be adapted to diversification of products (dried vegetables but also plants or root vegetables).
  • Efficient equipment, that is able to meet requirements of the sector and the segment of market for which it is used.
    Most drying units still use open-air drying on tiles or matting. This has many disadvantages such as no protection; uncertainty in the wet season; large ground surface area; low productivity.
    The following considerations are to be taken into account when investing in commercial units:
  • Solar dryers have low drying speed and are easily damaged.
  • Electric dryers produce drying costs which are prohibitive for smal-scale use.
  • Imported, industrial dryers have good technical performance but do not meet the needs of small-scale units.
  • The gas cabin dryer is largely used for drying fruits and vegetables and sometimes cereals. Its weak points are: Nominal load too low; energy cost too high; drying method limited.
    Adapting existing dryers in accordance with specifications is one answer, says the book. For several years, GERES has contributed to the development of new models of dryers, particularly for use in small-scale drying.
    New demands
    Until recently, the priorities of food drying in the countries of the South involved increasing the value of surplus market produce or perishable fruits, according to the book.
    Today, in a number of these countries the economic advantages of drying also apply to products based on cereals or root crops (flours, couscous, semolina) intended for local urban consumption. They are the main products that are consumed daily by both urban and rural people. Traditional products which have been long consumed in their fresh state, are appearing in ready-to-use, dried form. Examples are araw and thiacry in Senegal, atti™    ©k™    © in the Ivory Coast, aklui in Benin, sweet d™    ©gu™    © in Burkina Faso and yam in the Congo. Small-scale businesses are beginning to occupy this market niche , and drying units, mainly run by women, are being set up to meet the growing demand.
    The book is published by ITDG and costs around R155 (E19.50; ™  £12.95).
  • Sun-dried sweet potato ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¢™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦šÃ‚¡™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¬™ Ã‚¬šÃ‚¦™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…€œchips¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¢™ ¬„¢ÃƒÆ¢™šÃ‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’¬¦šÃ‚¡™Ãƒ¢Ã¢€š¬Ã…¡ÃƒÆ¬? have been developed by Ugandas national agricultural research organisation. The product is popular at schools and big hotels. For info email namarajust@yahoo.com
    ITDG: Fax +44 1926 634502; info@itpubs.org.uk
    GERES: Tel +33 442 185588; fax +33 442 030156; geres@worldnet.fr
    Equipment suppliers:
    Maurer (Germany): Fax +49 7534 808
    Atie (France): Fax +33 563 618022
    Almatifel (France): Fax +33 04 90 14 8730
    Turatti (Italy): Fax +39 0426 31 0731
    BMA (Netherlands): Fax +31 03 48 435 435