Friday, October 3, 2008
the farm in Godagama, Meegoda
This ten-acre property 28km from Colombo is where I originally came to when I returned to the country. It was clear from the outset, that it was in a negative cash flow situation with the dairy contributing the significant portion to the loss, primarily because we spent too much time and energy feeding the animals for very little milk revenue.
I had to make the existing house habitable and livable, by cosmetic changes, of upgrading the electrical system, painting the place and upgrading some of the homes on the property along with some infrastructure. The workforce that I inherited sadly is probably the worst this country can provide, with productivity that would not even pay the wages.
I was in a terrible dilemma, as I could not bankroll a permanent loss, and had to take calculated steps to increase revenue. The first was to rapidly try and find markets for King Coconuts all over Colombo and fill shortages by buying the nuts from neighboring properties. This was very successful but in 2008 adverse weather conditions and severe problems with the reliability of the tree climber who doubled his charges resulted in losing money on this previously profitable business. I hope I can return to a state of profitability next year, but a lot sadly depends on the tree climber’s performance.
The other products, Coconuts and bananas are hardly holding their own, with bananas badly affected by a family of monkeys that has taken residence on the farm ruining everything. We are still struggling to get enough papaya trees to cope with the demand, and have been singularly unsuccessful in this regard. Actually the unreliability of the workforce to carry out orders has been the main contributor to the lack of produce in these three departments.
I have no marketing problem for anything that is grown on this property, it is just the production of good quality produce that has been sorely missing. I have attempted to start a line of fresh leaves which I feel has a great demand but this too is labor intensive, as the weeding has to be done by hand as not pesticides are used and we just don’t have hardworking and reliable workforce for that. The sky is leterally the limit on what I can sell, like the market for flowers like anthuriams and orchids is unsatisfied along with houseplants, all of which grows well in this property, but until I personally poison their moonshine and say good bye to all those who have tested me I am not going to get into a state of near break even in this property.