Diaspora returnee aspires to have a franchise that houses all agro-products
Her startup, Victoria Food International Inc., which was launched last month, August 29, features some of the popular brands in the agriculture sector on its shelves. But Victoria Peabody, CEO of the startup, is looking forward to featuring more locally made agro products.
“More Liberian products have to be on these shelves, and our doors are opened to welcome products from around the country,” says Victoria.
According to Victoria, she built the store after recognizing the difficulty in shopping for local agro products.
“It was just difficult to purchase all of our local products from one spot. Sometimes, I will have to drive to two or three different supermarkets to get what I wanted. So there was a time when I thought about having all of the Liberian made products, especially foods, in the same space. I shared this with my husband, and we started the planning process, and now here we are,” she says.
Approximately 2,150,000 people are working in the agriculture sector making up 43 percent of the 5 million people in Liberia that work in the sector. These food producers mainly live in the rural part of the country. Despite their role as producers of food, the marketing of their produce remains challenging. But the Victoria Food International Inc seeks to establish itself as a startup that will boost farm to urban market linkages in the agriculture sector, its founder says.
“People bring in their products to the city without an assurance of market. We have found out that these people sell their produce at a very low price because they do not want their vegetables or fruits to rot in their hands, which leads to them selling for almost nothing. We want to fill that gap; we want farmers from rural communities to have the assurance of a market for their products,” says Victoria.
However, strengthening the nexus between farm and urban markets comes with required standards. For this, Victoria says that her team is guiding local growers and processors to meet her requirements.
“We do not want to put products on our shelves that are not well packaged or not thoroughly processed. So whatever that is brought to us, we take it through our grading systems. Sometimes we repackage what we received from farmers who do not have the means to package their products,” she says.
Despite having its in-store brand, the Victoria Food International Inc., also features products from other processors on its shelves. The bigger picture is to expose Liberian agro-products to foreign markets, says Victoria. She wants to have Liberian agro-products exported to the United States, a place where she once operated a restaurant that sold African dishes.
Her startup which is situated along the Zuba Town-Rehab Road in Paynesville, joined the Falama Minimart of Falama Food Inc., as the second Liberian owned-store selling locally made agro-products in the country.