The cotton-buying season is over, and we have our 84 buying agents to thank for the ginnery’s biggest volume of cotton ever, by a ridiculously long way. Last year, we bought 3.5 million kgs, this year we bought 7.2m.
The 84 agents each ran their own small businesses, encouraging farmers to grow cotton, helping them get good yields, hiring stores, borrowing our pre-finance, buying & bulking cotton & delivering to the ginnery. Some even ran a miniature network of sub-agents and sent them out into the villages to forage out every last ball of cotton that can be bought.
To thank them for more than doubling last year’s volume, we had a prize-giving ceremony. There was good food, an open Q & A session with the management, and then the ginnery gave away thousands of dollars worth of prizes.
*For everyone: A Gulu cotton t-shirt (they’re bright green, you’d want one if you saw one)
*For buying 40 tons or more: A t-shirt & a D. Light solar lamp
*50 tons or more: A t-shirt, a solar lamp & a spraypump (for spraying crops)
*75 tons or more: A t-shirt, a solar lamp, a spraypump & an ox-plough
*150 tons or more: A t-shirt, a solar lamp, a spraypump, an ox-plough, & a bicycle
And for the winner? A t-shirt, a solar lamp, a spraypump, an ox-plough, a bicycle AND a Bajaj motorbike.
(This is like that memory game, I went to the market & I bought…)
The man who won had bought almost 300 tons, earning himself $6000 in commission, ten times the GDP/capita in Uganda. He looked pretty pleased to be able to ride home on a motorbike.
But the event was bittersweet. For every agent who went home with a bicycle, there was one who still owes the ginnery money. For some its a few hundred thousand shillings (say, less than $40) and the cash has probably been lent to a family member, or used to pay back a micro-loan, and eventually it’ll find its way back to the company.
For others, its serious. There’s an agent who owes the ginnery 4m shillings ($1000), another with a 6m ($1500) debt. Charles went to the 4m debtor’s house today, but he bolted as Charles arrived. Who knows what he’s used the money for - buying into another business that’s now failed, lending to people who have disappeared, frittered away on gambling and drink? Another debtor insists the money was stolen, and is selling his three cows to pay us back. There’s no way to know the truth, and only one way to run the business if we want to avoid every agent running away with thousands of dollars next year.
So some get bicycles, others get arrested…
The prize-giving took place in a now empty cotton store.
Bruce and the manager Charles (front, in the white shirt) with the top six buyers!