We can cre­ate mar­kets for small­holder farm­ers – Ex­pert

Daily Trust - - GOLDEN HARVEST -

What is the main fo­cus of MAR­KETS II?

When you say MAR­KETS there is a mis­con­cep­tion about it by the peo­ple. Ac­tu­ally, MAR­KETS is an agribusi­ness de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme funded by USAID to en­sure that Nige­rian farm­ers have ac­cess to mar­kets. It is a pro­gramme that is im­ple­mented all through the agri­cul­tural value chain. The main fo­cus is to en­sure that farm­ers pro­duce what they can sell.

We are work­ing on rice, maize, cas­sava, sorghum, co­coa and aqua­cul­ture. The pro­gramme pro­vides tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to the farm­ers so that they can pro­duce ac­cord­ing to the re­quired stan­dards. We fa­cil­i­tate ac­cess to good qual­ity seeds and fer­til­izer.

We don’t give the farm­ers money but only link them to where they can buy cer­ti­fied seeds and fer­til­iz­ers. We also train the farm­ers and work with them from land clear­ing stage to har­vest­ing to en­sure that they use good agro­nomic practices and pro­duce crops that the off-tak­ers can buy from them. Once the off­tak­ers get standard pro­duce, they pay a pre­mium price to the farm­ers, not just what ob­tains in the mar­ket. The essence of this is that be­cause of the train­ing, the pro­duce com­ing from our farm­ers are bet­ter and up to standard.

The av­er­age Nige­rian farmer is hardly able to sell his pro­duce or get com­men­su­rate re­turns for months of labour. Why is this so?

Of course, the av­er­age Nige­rian farmer al­ways finds it dif­fi­cult to sell his pro­duce be­cause most of the farm­ers are farm­ing as they grew up to meet peo­ple in the com­mu­nity do­ing. They don’t even have guar­an­tee that they can sell their pro­duce. And that is the beauty of this project. Be­fore we train farm­ers to farm, we are al­ready sure of the mar­ket. So, Nige­rian farm­ers will al­ways face dif­fi­culty if they don’t have guar­an­tee of where to sell and they just go ahead to pro­duce. I give you an ex­am­ple, dur­ing Obasanjo’s regime, sim­ply be­cause of the pol­icy of 10% in­clu­sion of cas­sava in flour, peo­ple went ahead to pro­duce cas­sava and many could not sell. Dr. Farouk Ku­rawa is the Di­rec­tor, Agri­cul­tural Finance, Nige­ria MAR­KETS II, a United States Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID) funded pro­gramme im­ple­mented by Che­mon­ics In­ter­na­tional. He worked with MAR­KETS I and the Bridge pro­gramme in lead­ing ca­pac­i­ties be­fore the emer­gence of MAR­KETS II. In this in­ter­view with he dis­closed how the pro­gramme links farm­ers across the coun­try with off-tak­ers in or­der to en­sure read­ily avail­able mar­ket at pre­mium prices for their pro­duce. Ex­cerpts:

There was a glut be­cause there was no guar­an­teed mar­ket for the cas­sava pro­duced. It was just a pol­icy state­ment and noth­ing was on ground to pro­tect the farm­ers. Many farm­ers suf­fered and lost a lot of money.

What can the gov­ern­ment do to im­prove mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties for small­holder farm­ers?

Av­er­age Nige­rian farmer doesn’t pro­duce be­cause he has guar­an­teed mar­ket and that’s why we are urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to en­cour­age the farm­ers to pro­duce along the value chain to at­tract mar­ket. The gov­ern­ment should make sure that what­ever the farm­ers are pro­duc­ing, they should have com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage. In do­ing so, there will be guar­an­teed mar­ket and pre­mium price.

What in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties are there for the pri­vate sec­tor in cre­at­ing mar­kets for farm­ers’ pro­duce?

There are a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties. There are op­por­tu­ni­ties in seeds and fer­til­izer. Seed is a ma­jor in­put the farm­ers need. It is a great de­ter­mi­nant of farm­ers out­put. Some of them plant the grains they har­vested from their farms in­stead of plant­ing cer­ti­fied seeds. The pri­vate sec­tor can pro­duce good, qual­ity seeds for the farm­ers to plant and har­vest good qual­ity pro­duce that can at­tract mar­ket.

Once it is demon­strated to the farmer that there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween seed and grain, the farmer will be ready to stake his or her money to buy the seeds to get good yield. Good qual­ity fer­til­iz­ers can be pro­duced for the farm­ers to ap­ply on their crops and get higher yield.

No­tore as a pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tion is al­ready in­volved in seeds and fer­til­izer pro­duc­tion. There are op­por­tu­ni­ties in agro-pro­cess­ing as well. You can mi­cro-process or semi-process and sell to big­ger buy­ers. For ex­am­ple, farm­ers pro­duce and at the time of har­vest, the price will be so low and they need to trans­port the pro­duce to the mar­ket. Some of the pro­duce gets wasted and the farm­ers lose a lot.

The pri­vate sec­tor can in­vest in pro­cess­ing and also in haulage to get the pro­duce to the des­ti­na­tion in good time. Farm­ers will be will­ing to pay for such ser­vices to avoid post-har­vest losses. There are also op­por­tu­ni­ties in mech­a­niza­tion. For ex­am­ple, a farmer who cul­ti­vates 1ha and is get­ting 1ton/ha, if you in­tro­duce him to im­proved seeds and he or she is get­ting 5tons/ha, that farmer can no longer use hands to cul­ti­vate but mech­a­nised method. He needs small mech­a­nised equip­ment to carry out the farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

So, op­por­tu­ni­ties are there to pro­vide mech­a­ni­sa­tion so that farm­ers can pay for the ser­vices to avoid drudgery.

Also, there are op­por­tu­ni­ties in mar­ket link­ages. If a farmer is linked to the value chain and he or she knows where he can get in­puts and where he can sell his pro­duce at pre­mium price, noth­ing stops him or her from pro­duc­ing more.

The pri­vate sec­tor can in­vest at any level of the agri­cul­tural value chain to cre­ate mar­kets for the farm­ers, while en­joy­ing re­turns on their in­vest­ment.

Dr. Farouk Ku­rawa

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