“When farmers start to explore the market by themselves, they have at least five instances of ‘Wow’ –experiences, which change their way of thinking (Farmers Market School pilot project evaluation report, Zimbabwe.)
Smallholder farmers’ growing engagement with the market is a key precondition for increased income to farmers’ household and for sustained agriculture based economic growth. But most often, farmers – especially smallholder farmers – remain at the fringes of the market. They are not included in the value chains for their commodities as conscious actors.
Typically, smallholder farmers do not know much about the value chains than the first link they meet, which is often the middleman – much hated and “demonized” by the farmers, who feel that they get too low prices for what they produce.
But, to be engaged with the market requires much more than just removing the middleman, actually not necessarily a good idea, because the middleman has a function in the value chain by bringing goods from A to B, without which the chain would not function. The farmer needs market skills, must be market ready, before s/he can maneuver and benefit from what the market offers. These skills can be learned, and with those skills the farmer can start treating farming as a business.
The problem in marketing agricultural produce is not the market itself but marketing.
To ensure you sell your produce/ farm products on time…
Conduct a Qualitative Market Research: Qualitative Market Research deals with the feelings, attitudes, opinions, and thoughts of an individual to ascertain their underlying reasons for behaviour. The purpose of qualitative market research is to study buyers’ psychology and obtain the insights and depth of buyers’ perceptions, behaviour, and needs.
Define and identify your markets/customers: Always think of hotels, restaurants, schools and individuals. Yes, these clients already have suppliers, but please do something special to outsmart those suppliers. You can decide to make free deliveries.
Employ marketers: Always employ at least commission based marketers for your farm products depending on the levels of production at the farm. This will increase sales considerably.
Advertise your product: Someone is out there looking for what you have. This not only increases awareness for your products, but also increases subsequent demand for your products.
Seek knowledge: Someone out there has done what you do for decades, look for him/her to know what it takes to prevail successfully.
Use attractive packaging materials: Good packaging attracts good customers. Where possible, include the nutritional specifications pertaining to your product. This can include calories, protein levels and more.
Always ensure that you go for the best breed, parent stock, seeds, variety, feed and other inputs.