03/2015.The Journey to Agricultural Markets

BY RUTH NABAGGALA, Agricultural Market Development Officer Posted March 2015 Access to markets has always been a very complicated phenomenon to farmers which in most cases has led to some of them giving up on practicing farming as a business. It is upon the development agents to simplify the concept. This would go a very long way in improving the country’s economy.  After all agriculture contributes 42% to Uganda’s GDP and employs over 80% of Uganda’s population. Uganda’s economy stands to improve exceedingly if agricultural markets have been well organized and farmers can actively participate in these markets. There have been many interventions by Government and development organizations to improve farmer participation in agricultural markets e.g through trainings, improvement on access to capital and market information and enhancing farmer skills in agricultural product development. I was lucky enough to have visited some of the farmer groups in Uganda that PELUM works with through her member organizations and was impressed by the positive cases that I saw. Below are the cases from some of these farmer groups. ANZU FARMERS’ ASSOCIATION The association is located in the West Nile with 30 farmers 12 of whom are men and 18 women. The group specializes in cultivating and marketing of vegetables including onions and tomatoes. After struggling to derive more income from vegetables, the group discovered that time was running out and they needed to improve on how business was transacted. They were selling vegetables in very poor conditions in terms prices and conditions.Luckily enough, in July, 2014 PELUM Uganda organized a 2 day training for its member organizations in agricultural market research and standards. In the training, one of the farmer leaders attended, learnt a lot and reported to fellow group members who instantly selected a team known as the ‘Marketing committee’ of 4 members (2 women and 2 men). The committee is charged with conducting market surveys, ensure  good quality of produce. They also do research on markets and negotiate prices for the benefit of the farmer group business. So far the group has identified Southern Sudan as their market for vegetables. The prices in Sudan are much better than prices in Ugandan markets. The price of a ‘basin’ of onions is UGX. 60,000/= as opposed to the UGX.20, 000/= offered by traders in Uganda. They have also opted to store their produce through the bumper season and only sell when the prices go up due to decrease in supply. They hope to increase acreage in vegetables, select the most marketable varieties, produce their own seed, follow all the best agronomic practices for the best yield, improve on storage of their produce and divide roles according to who would best deliver on the needed output. For example women are best known to be the best in quality maintenance. PANGIETH FARMER GROUP DSC02664Pangieth farmer group is located in the West Nile with a membership of 50 members 36 of whom are women and 14 men. The group has for many years struggled to market sesame in the best market conditions. Recently the farmer group was trained in market mapping, business planning, market research, market standards and quality maintenance. As a result, on the 29th January, 2015 after the farmer group had struggled to find favorable market for the sesame, the group was able to sell over 10 tonnes of sesame to a buyer who was offering a price higher than prices offered by other traders in the market (UGX. 2700/= as opposed to UGX.2500/=). Additionally, farmers were able to use their own measuring scale; the buyer took his truck closer to the farmer group to avoid transport expenses for the farmers. At that point a good partnership was developed between the group and the buyer  which enabled them to secure market for their sesame in the upcoming seasons.  ALIKISIMA FARMER GROUP Alikisima farmer group located in Jinja district has 28 members of which 22 are women and 6 men. It specialized in production and marketing of maize. For many years they lived under the assumption that markets for maize were the most unfavorable due to price fluctuation.It is at this stage that PELUM exposed the to advantages of conducting market research.   After the market research by the group members, farmers appreciated that better markets can be accessed through collective marketing, quality maintenance, value addition. They also realized that market for maize is available and sometimes it up to the farmers to satisfy this market. Thereafter the group decided to hire land and increased production of maize. They also developed a collective or bulk marketing management team as well as went into processing of maize into flour. These activities have helped the group in realizing more income from maize production than before. Farmers can sell maize at UGX.1900 as opposed to the constantly fluctuating prices of maize throughout the year between UGX 300- UGX. 1500. The group ensures that it avoids price fluctuation of maize by storing maize and selling it when the prices go high, which is mostly when the supply of maize has decreased country wide. Storage is made easier after the maize has been processed into flour. The group currently has secured a contract with a buyer known as Kasiwukira who bought 20 tonnes of maize from this group at UGX. 1900/= in December, 2014. The buyer was very impressed by the quality of the maize that he is willing to continue buying from the group in the next seasons.