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How to Start Food Export Business in Cameroon

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Its often said that Cameroon is Africa in miniature.

To an ordinary Cameroonian, that statement is just a normal slogan but to an exporter its not just a slogan but a source of motivation.

Its a phrase that keeps reminding the smart entrepreneurs in Cameroon that Cameroon is blessed with lots of things that the world need and this presents an opportunity for them to make money.

All we need to do, is to export our goodies to the world and make money rather than bragging with the slogan on the social media.

Aside mineral resource, Cameroon is blessed with tons of food stuffs that any one in Cameroon (with a small capital) can easily export to other countries and make money.

Also, Cameroon is a land which is very fertile therefore many species of agricultural produce which cannot be easily obtained in other countries are found to be growing here.

These agricultural produce are essential foods which people eat or convert into other products which are then sold to consumers for consumption.

I can authoritatively say that Cameroon has more food stuffs and delicious meals than any country in the world thanks to its cultural diversity.

Tourists who have visited Cameroon and consume our delicacies, have returned with lasting memories of the delicious taste of Cameroonian food and constantly wondering how and where they can get this meals in their country.

Most of the food stuffs that we see as nothing in Cameroon and even throw away some, are something that people in other countries are dying to have.

The demand for African foodstuffs in Europe, America and Canada (Diaspora) is fast rising due to the increasing population of Africans in this country, especially Cameroonians who immigrate for work and for the purpose of schooling. These people crave and want the undiluted taste of their home food after all there is the saying that goes “ There is no place like home”.

These people miss their culture and so, therefore, find means of being familiar with that which is by eating the Cameroonian food they can find in the diaspora. This is where food exporters come in.

Food exporters export Food Produce to retailers running ethnic shops and consumers in countries such as the US, Europe and Canada.

Food export business is in fact very profitable because of the demand for African food abroad. The volume of Cameroonian export of foodstuffs to these countries is still on a very small scale considering the estimation of well over 2 million Cameroonian who reside outside the country, with the majority, living in the UK, the US, Canada and Germany. This is an excellent chance to sell to this category of people.

A few months ago, i listed a small quantity of Mpuh fish spice (less than 0.5KG) on Etsy for $50 just to see if there’s a demand for the item….and to my greatest surprise, A Cameroonian based in Canada, paid for it. In the article i wrote about how to sell on Etsy from Cameroon, you will see a picture of the mpuh fish spice.

Snails that many Cameroonians don’t see as anything or regard as useless or even smash when they see them, is what is selling like gold dust in the foreign market.

I was surprised to see that 5 pieces of snails is being sold for $28 but a KG of snail is being sold for less than 20,000frs.

For those of you who don’t know, Etsy (etsy.com) is an online marketplace where people around the world sell handmade stuffs. On the market place, Africans also list food stuffs for sale.

However in 2021, Etsy shuts its doors for Nigeria, Cameroon and other African countries hence its no longer possible for Cameroonians to set up a shop on Etsy.

If you intend to get in to food exportation business in a massive scale, you will need to set up a Cameroonian food online shop where you can list your items for sale and this won’t cost you much.

The bottomline is, the world wants what Cameroon have and we the entrepreneurs needs to figure out how to market and export this products to those who need them…and this is what this article is all about.

So what to export, how to market and how to export, are the three fundamental questions that you will get an answer to at the end of this post.

If you are looking at starting export business or foodstuff export business in 2022, this article will help you.

Also, there is no better time to start export business in Cameroon than now.

Covid-19 pandemic has even brought more opportunities for the demand of African products, making it easier for smart exporters to make money exporting.

The recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA) by the African Union has even made it easier to export within Africa without much hassle.

One question that most Cameroonians who wish to get in to food exportation business often ask me, is WILL IN NEED AN EXPORTATION LICENSE

You don’t need any exportation license in other to start your food exportation business in Cameroon for a start since you would be exporting small quantities of food stuffs using the services of the freight forwarders in Cameroon who will take care of all the paperwork…but when it reaches a stage where you will need to export a container load of food stuffs, you will need one and when you reach this stage, it will also be adviseable for you to register your business to make it a limited liability company. This is should be done to avoid any legal issues that might pop up.

Ok now that you know that the food exportation business is indeed a lucrative one with no barrier, i think its time for us to start answering the fundamental questions in the mini exportation business in Cameroon.

1) What to export (How Do I know the right Product) ???

There are a lots of agricultural produce in Cameroon that can be exported to other countries.

While almost all our exportable products are demanded in international markets, there are some that will sell or out-performed the other and we the food exporters call this food stuffs the hot selling items.

It is more reasonable identify this hot selling food items before starting up.

Smart exporters in Cameroon carefully handpicked the hot selling items and not what they like.

But how do we know this hot selling items???

To determine this, you can examine the market trends and know what people are interested in buying or selling.

You probably have a list of food stuffs in your mind that you are thinking of exporting as soon as you finish reading this article. Not so fast dear.

As an exporter, it is necessary to find out the following before you settle on it as your chosen exportable products.

1) Is the product available all round the year in Cameroon
2) Is it also Accessible – Accessible in the sense that, you can easily find it within your city and would not spend extra thousands in sourcing it from the remote areas, less you delay and spend more money.
3) What’s the price of the product in the foreign market
5) Is the market saturated???
4) What’s the weight of the item
5) Is it a dry or perishable item
6) Can i dropship the item??

Ok let me break down the aforementioned points for you to understand…

*** Is the product available all round the year in Cameroon

Before you can consider adding a food stuff to your exportation list, you must first of all check if the item is available around the year.

If the item is a seasonal one, then it means business ends when the season is over and you will have to wait for months again to get back to business.

As a smart exporter, you need to choose products that will keep the cash flowing 365.

*** Secondly, you also have to check if the product can easily be gotten in your city and not something that will require you to go to the hinterlands to get it. However if you are comfortable doing that, then no wahala. If you can do this, it would be an added advantage since you would be buying food stuffs at a cheaper price.

*** Before you can select any foodstuff, also check the price of the product in the foreign market. Etsy is a good platform to check prices.

Let’s take for example that you wish to sell crayfish, first you need to check how much other people are selling it on the platform and then you can compare it with the price you intend to sell yours.

To get the selling price of your items, you can add shipping cost plus the amount you intend to sell the item. If the total (selling price) is greater than the prices of a similar quantity of food stuff on Etsy, then that product would be difficult to sell except you know what to say to convince people to buy at the higher price. Maybe if you say yours is original and fresh from Cameroon, you would be able convince customers to buy from you and not others selling at the cheap price.

*** Is the market saturated???

What do i mean by saturated???

If there are lots of people selling same food stuff of the same quantity at almost similar price, then the market is saturated…and in a saturated market it would be difficult for your items to stand out.

However this point is irrelevant since you would be selling from your own online food shop with no competitor…unlike the Etsy sellers.

But its important to note that customers who are aware of Etsy, might go there to buy if your food stuffs are far more expensive.

To avoid stiff competition, research unique products.

*** What’s the weight of the item

As a mini importer, the kind of food you should export should be light weight items.

This is because the shipping agents in Cameroon do charge per KG.

So the light weight items like the dried food stuffs will cost you less money to ship than the heavy items.

*** Is it a dry or perishable item

You need to choose a food stuffs that don’t get bad easily.

Wondering why???

You want to avoid a case where before an item arrives a customer, it has already gotten bad on transit and this will obviously cause a customer to request for a refund and possibly leave a bad review on your Facebook page that can soil the reputation of your business.

Mind you, its going to take about 2 weeks for an exported item to arrive USA, with the shipping option that I’m going to propose to you.

The dry food items is what you should sell to avoid any issue like items getting damaged on transit.

*** Can i dropship the item??

You must be hearing this for the first time.

Dropshiping in mini exportation in Cameroon is all about transferring the orders to the other food exportation merchants to fulfill an order on your behalf.

There are some Cameroonians who are already involved in the food business in Cameroon.

This Cameroonians food stuff dealers already have processed food items on the shelves of their food shop ready to be shipped to customers in Cameroon and abroad.

If you are a frequent user of Facebook, you must have spotted photos of parceled food items being advertised on the Facebook groups…items ranging from food spices, parceled snails, crayfish, smoked fish, meat, Egusi, cassava flour, cocoyam powder for Ekwang, dried vegetables etc

Those food stuff merchants in Cameroon have made things very easy as you don’t need to do any processing of food items. They have done the work for you, all you need to do is to get the items from them and ship.

When a customer bought the Mpuh fish spice that i listed on Etsy, i was thinking of looking for the ingredients to prepare the spice and send….but a friend introduced me to a processed food vendor who sells already bottled mpuh fish spice. I happily bought it for 5000frs.

This parceled food vendors in Cameroon also have a good mastery of the exportation business and have also figured out ways to ship items to USA and other countries at low shipping cost.

As a drop shipping exporter, you just need to get photos of their parceled items from their Facebook pages, use the photos to run your Facebook ads and make profit

Somebody may likely want to ask, how do i make profit???

If the food vendors are selling a KG of snail for 30,000frs (including shipping), advertise the Snail for sale at 50,000frs per KG. 20,000frs would your profit.

And how do you get your profit???

When a customer buys it for 50,000frs, you simply forward the customer’s details (name and address) to the local food vendor and issue a payment of 30,000frs to the food vendor. The food vendor will then ship the item to the customer (abroad) and you keep your 20,000frs (your profit).

With drop shipping, anyone in Cameroon can engage in the food exportation business stress free.

All you need to do is to work with the items stocked by the local food vendors… and due their experience in the business, they sell just what is making waves.

Lastly, if you prefer to do the food exportation business the drop shipping style, you will need to discuss with the food vendors to convince them to put your own labelling on the food items.

Most of the local food vendors have pasted their labelling on the food items which contains their logo, website links and phone numbers. If you allow them to ship the items to your customers with their labelling on the food stuffs, they will end up snatching your customers.

Wondering how???

When next the customer wants to place another order, he or she might just call the number on the labelling or visit the website on the label. When they do this, they will end up getting the item at a cheaper price from your local food vendor (supplier). So that’s how you can lose a customer with drop shipping.

To make a huge amount of money from the mini exportation business, you need to build a list of regular customers who often patronize your business and you have to guard this customers like a hen covering its chicks.

Hence if you prefer to do drop shipping in mini exportation business in Cameroon, it would be advisable to work with vendors who can put your own labelling on them. We call this private label drop shipping.

If possible sign a deal with them to ensure that there’s no backstabbing.

If they don’t agree, then you can produce and ship items by yourself.

Also choose food vendors with a good reputation and not ones that will ship something to your customers that will cause health issue or take a long time to ship items. Since you are not the one doing the processing and shipping, you should ensure that the items are well processed and shipped well. Verify that all products are of high quality. The better the quality, the more consumers will patronize you. Before you even start petronizing a local food supplier, you can order few samples of the parceled food items on their shelves, to check the quality.

All make sure that the local food supplier can meet the demand rate of your customers. You don’t want to experience a situation whereby a customer places a huge order but your local food vendor has run out of stock.

At the end of this article, i will list some reliable food vendors that you can work with if you intend to do drop shipping in food exportation in Cameroon. So you don’t need to worry about locating them.

Hot selling Food Stuffs for Food Exportation business in Cameroon (What Food to Export Out Of Cameroon)

There are several agricultural produce in Cameroon which are in high demand in other countries. Here are some which you can start exporting:

Snails
Smoked Fish
African Crayfish| Crayfish
Eru
Cameroon Food Spices
Honey
Ginger
Cassava Flour
Garlic
Palm Oil
Palm Kernel Oil

Like i mentioned earlier, if you cannot processed the food items yourself, work with the already processed food items on the shelves of the local food vendors.

Ok we are done answering the first fundamental question in mini exportation of food in Cameroon

Time to move to the second question

How to market your chosen food stuff…

This is what will determine the amount of money you will make from your food exporting business and this is not something that should surprise anyone as its the marketing that brings the customers and the money.

Those who have good marketing skill will obviously get more customers and easily build a large customer base than exporters with no marketing skill.

So how do we market our food stuffs so that our target customers can know that we have what they are dying to have???

The answer is pretty simple; digital marketing and the use of Cameroonian influencers.

Digital marketing is all about advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Google, Pinterest and other advertising platforms. As easy as this appears, its not an easy thing to do.

For you to launch advertising campaigns that will expose your business to potential clients, you need a good mastery of digital marketing without which you will end up wasting your money on ads without getting any result.

Contrary to your expectation, i won’t get in to the details about digital marketing in this article. If you are willing to master digital marketing and be able to launch highly targeted advertising campaigns that will fetch you tons of potential clients, then you will need to buy a digital marketing course. If you are interested in the course, WhatsApp me or leave a comment below.

Another very easy way that mini food exporters in Cameroon can get customers is by advertising their business via an influencer.

Who is an influencer???

If somebody is a columnist on a popular blog or in a newspaper with a huge audience that reads their articles religiously and responds to what they put out, then that person is an influencer.

If somebody put out an article and tell people to come out and attend an event and people turn out for the event, then that person is an influencer.

If somebody have thousands of followers on social media and there is good engagement when they put out content, then that person is an influencer.

If you have a YouTube channel with a lot of subscribers who love you and engage with your content, you are influencer. If you have a podcast with rabid listeners, you are an influencer.

Summarily an influencer is somebody that many people look up to for advice or guidance due to their expertise in a particular field. This people can easily cause their audience to take a particular action since they view them as their role model (demi god) and desperately wanna be like them.

So if you want to quickly sell your products or build your business and brand from ground floor up, your best bet is to use the services of an influencer.

Most of this influencers have a huge number of followings made up of Cameroonians in the diaspora. Those are your target customers or market…and this influencers have the power to convince them to buy your stuff. You can now get a clear picture of how this form of advertising is effective in marketing food export business.

An influencer will make people hear about you or your product almost instantly. If well done, you can start making sales almost immediately. But that is if you do it right.

What do I mean? You see, if you do not know how to go about it, you will only waste money. You will spend too much money and you will not get your desired result.

To get it right, you need to do the following…

*** Determine Your Motive

Before you talk to any Cameroonian influencer or do anything whatsoever, you need to make a fundamental decision. You should be able to determine what your aim is. Now that sounds basic but hark unto me, I will explain. You see, there are two main reasons why you will be needing an influencer to promote your products. The first reason is because you want to create awareness for your product/business and the second reason is because you want to sell.

There is a difference between the two.

If you are a big brand and you have alot of money, you can just hire influencers to keep the name of your brand out there. However, if you are a small business with a little budget, your aim should be to make straight sales.

You do not have the financial abilities to play the “brand awareness” game because it is a long term game. You will go broke before the results come in. You should concentrate on the “instant sales” game. As you make money, put it back into more advertising. When you have good money in the bank, you can also begin to talk about awareness.

*** Select The Right Influencer

This is a crucial aspect for me but most people get this wrong but it is easy when you know what you are doing as discussed above. If you are looking for just awareness and you have the money, go for the “biggest” celebrities out there. Sign up the biggest musicians, actors and comedians. Pay them good money and they will put out your brand.

If you sign up Stanley Enow, Salatiel and Samuel Eto’o, you can rest assured that people will take a closer look at your brand. As I write this, Eto’o is currently an influencer/ambassador for United Bank For Africa Plc. When a UBA advert featuring Eto’o is displayed on a billboard on the street, you would take a second look.

Despite this exposure, we cannot say for sure how many people have opened accounts with UBA because of Samuel Eto’o. Maybe there are loads, I am not in a position to say but I don’t think UBA really cares. They have money, spent it on Samuel Eto’o and got great exposure.

Everyone is happy.

But I am not sure you have that kind of budget. You are just starting your food exportation business. Even if you have money, your plan might not be for exposure. Your plan can be to make sales. If this is what you are looking for, it is better to hire those I call “mini influencers”. Today is the thirteenth day of June, 2022.

Social media has made it possible these days to find people with an audience ready to listen to them. Everywhere you turn to on social media, Instagram and Twitter especially, you can easily find someone, who will not charge you too much but is ready to help you promote your products.
The reason I put the date above is because I have no idea of the year you will be reading this. You could be reading this in the year 2051 and who knows, Instagram and Twitter could be irrelevant or dead by then. It doesn’t matter. There would always be another technology application and there will always be people who have the audience.

There was a time that if you had a column in a newspaper, you were the ultimate influencer. Times have changed and technology will continue to change. However, the concept will never change as long as there are human beings in this world. When one technology fades out, people move on to the
next.

*** Know The Influencer’s Audience Size & Engagement

When selecting an influencer, you should check the size of the audience, the engagement and the history of the influencer. The size in the sense that how many people are following the influencer on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube? How many people are watching his or her videos online? How many people are listening to his or her podcast? How many people are reading his or her newspaper column? How many people are commenting on his or her blog? How many people are listening to his or her radio show?

Whatever the technology application the potential influencer is using, how well is he or she doing there? The person does not have to be a celebrity. He or she just needs to have a loyal audience. A loyal audience of 10,000 people is better than a dormant audience of 100,000 people. Those who have used the services of influencers will tell you this is a fact.

*** Check The Influencer’s Relatability

Around the year 2021 or so, I created an online course on how to sell other people’s products for a commission. Not too many people knew me in the marketing community abroad. The product was targeted at Americans. I needed an influencer so I contacted a marketer who had an email list of about 30,000 subscribers. I paid him to recommend my product to his email list. He did.

The response was immediate.

The response was immediate because his subscribers were people who wanted to learn marketing.

If I take that kind of product to a comedian, it is unlikely the marketing campaign would succeed.

You need to hire influencers whose audience would like your product. A beautiful make up artist with 10,000 YouTube subscribers will not work for a sports betting website as much as a Twitter influencer with 1,000 followers interested in betting tips.

Do not look at just the volume. Is the influencer likely to use that product? People look at these things. If you are looking for just exposure though, you should not worry about this point.

*** Have The Right Marketing Plan

When you have chosen an influencer, you must come up with a marketing plan. Do not hire and influencer and task him or her to just go to town to promote your business. No. You must have a deliberate plan. You must have a plan. That plan is what will determine what you will ask the influencer to do.

Pricing your Product

To put the right price on your product, you must calculate all expenses, do a market research and analysis on how much the product is being sold in the foreign market, how much consumers and retailers are willing to pay and the rate of demand of the product. These details will help you determine how to price your product.

If you would be doing drop shipping food exporter, pricing your items would be very easy, just get the prices of your supplier (which includes the shipping cost) and then you can add your own little amount on that, which would be your profit.

How to ship out food stuffs to your customers abroad

Nowadays its very easy for food exporters to ship items to their customers around the world, thanks to the availability of freight forwarders in Cameroon.

Freight forwarders are shipping companies in Cameroon that will ship your items from Cameroon to the door step of your customers abroad and their shipping fee is not too expensive as compared to DHL, CAMPOST, TNT and other shipping companies in Cameroon.

DHL, TNT and the other aforementioned shipping companies charge a very high shipping fee which makes it difficult for mini food exporters to use their service as their shipping fee eats a large chunk of their profit.

If you really want to make lots of money from food exportation business in Cameroon, its very important that you ship items using the service of the freight forwarders.

Students have paid for my mini exportation training, have been offered a list of reliable freight forwarders for US, Germany, France, China and other countries. This has made shipping as easy as breathing for them.

I remember when i was looking for a means to ship the Mpuh fish spice to Canada, i went to DHL to get the shipping rates but was shocked to find out that it would cost me 40k to ship a KG.

Went to CAMPOST to inquire, theirs (28K per KG) was cheaper than DHL but still not affordable.

Went to TNT to get their own shipping rates but theirs too was also expensive.

To cut a long story short, i was able to ship the mpuh fish spice to the customer thanks to a friend who gave me the contacts of a reliable freight forwarder. They charge just 11k per kg and when the item arrives Canada.

So to make a lot of money from mini food exportation in Cameroon, its very important that you work with the freight forwarders or else you won’t be able to cope in this business.

How to receive payment from Customers when running a mini food exportation business in Cameroon

Like i mentioned earlier, if you intend to get in to the food exportation business in Cameroon, then you must include plans to set up a website and its from the website that you would be selling your food stuffs and receiving payment via credit card from customers.

Wondering how to get a website??? No worries.

I will create you a website and integrate stripe on the website so that you can be able to receive payment on the site via credit card and cash out your funds using your Cameroonian bank account.

Please contact me for more info on this.

How much money can you make in import export business

Like i mentioned earlier, there’s no limit to the amount of money you can make from food exportation business. You can only be limited by your marketing skill.

There will always be a huge demand for Cameroonian food stuffs.

Ok we have come to the end of this article.

Its important to note that the knowledge you have acquired from this post shouldn’t be limited to food exportation only.

There are lots of Cameroonians products that you can export to other countries and make huge amount of money. For example you can export made in Cameroon products like traditional outfits, bracelets, beads etc. Even the Bamileke Juju hat and stool (handicraft) is selling like hot cake. Instead of letting our parents to sell their cocoa at peanut prices, you can buy, convert them to cocoa powder and sell directly to the companies.

The Cameroon Bamileke Juju hat and locally made snacks like chin chin, groundnut and coconut sweet are also selling on Etsy like hotcakes.

There are lots of money making opportunities in the export industry and one thing i love so much about the food exportation business is that any one can start an export business from home.

If you need more info, send me a message via WhatsApp OR leave a comment below…

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