Keeping track of business

Ukraine farmers use Excel-based calculator to record costs, sales and the bottom line

Alexandra Harmash, MEDA Ukraine’s gender and cross-cutting services manager, developed a business calculator to help farmers keep better records.Alexandra Harmash, MEDA Ukraine’s gender and cross-cutting services manager, developed a business calculator to help farmers keep better records.As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

A few years ago, farmers in the Ukraine rarely tracked their financials in the same manner as most businesses.

That meant they often lacked the figures or evidence to show whether certain crops, or their business, was successful or not.

Even those people who used paper-based records, simple Excel sheets or accounting software lacked the guidance, business logic and direction to properly work with data in a way that would provide useful information.

MEDA’s Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP) tackled this problem and provided a new tool for its clients. The resource is an Excel-based business calculator for farmers. Filling in the fields doesn’t require much effort or take much time.

The calculator is divided into three sections: Our business, the needs of our family, and comparison of needs with business opportunities.

Clients enter descriptions of expenses, amounts and when the expense was incurred in the appropriate cells. They also add income amounts, when that was received, and sales markets.

The calculator can analyze revenue and expenses for up to 10 crops, providing information on cost of production, profitability of each crop and amount of income. It also calculates the amount of money that should be set aside for other business needs and to buy equipment.

Ukraine business wheelMEDA staff developed the calculator following five years of close co-operation with clients. The tool is aimed at small and medium-sized farm operations run by farmers who don’t know how to apply and organize financial records in their business or cannot afford to hire others to assess their business performance.

The calculator helps farmers make efficient management decisions, as large enterprises do.

Three months after the first training session on using the calculator, 53 clients had provided feedback.

Client Nadiia Kompaniets was disheartened by the first results for using the tool, as the calculator showed losses. Then she remembered that she had not included products stored in a warehouse.

She now uses the calculator to determine the profitability of cultivating new crops beforehand. “I planned to plant strawberries,” she said. “I know approximate amount of my expenses and I entered the minimum yield and the price of berries in the calculator. “I already see what profit I will have from this plot of land and whether it is worthwhile to be engaged in growing strawberries, or if it is more profitable to plant something else.”

Olga Shkribliak is also impressed. “Daily accounting shows whether we earn or not. The calculator helps to understand whether growing this or that crop makes any sense. This makes us think about modernization and the implementation of energy- saving technologies.”

Another client, Olga Mizina, entered five years worth of costs for all crops into the business calculator. Her grapes had been killed by frost the previous winter, and the family was debating whether to try again. Based on the results of all the crop information they entered, Olga could see that grapes were not a profitable crop on her family’s farm.

“The b-calculator has a great advantage, namely it allows making calculations in small business too,” she said. “Very few small business owners keep records in general.”

MEDA staff have found some behavioral changes among farmers who have been exposed to the tool. People are open and eager to apply the calculator.

Ukraine staff want to test whether the tendency will survive and whether demand for the business calculator will grow to encourage people to be as attentive to their financials as they are to inputs and other technology. ◆