The Engagement Manager at the Africa Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), George Boateng, has called on government to fashion out a deliberate policy aimed at assisting smallholder farmers to access markets or export channels in the agricultural value chain.
According to him, the policy could be the creation of a dedicated fund to improve agricultural markets for smallholder farmers.
Speaking at a virtual validation workshop on ACET’s Market Linkages Study, he called for a form of hybrid processing of agricultural produce involving smallholder farmers.
“On the field, we realized that farmers sometimes undertake some home processing to increase the prices of their produce. Farmers always want to upgrade; they have this idea that they can add something to their produce to make more money—and the more you try to do a little processing; you get more money.
“With this model, we are not expecting the farmers to be processors, but rather there should be some form of processing that the farmer can do. They are already doing it; it can be upgraded where other firms and SMEs could come in and they will pick this bulk processed product and go and add further value to it and raise the standard of it. By doing this, they can supply to export markets or supermarkets; that is the form of hybrid processing [we’re proposing],” he said.
Additionally, he said that innovative business models can help rural-based artisanal processors, which tend to be owned by women farmers, become suppliers of supermarkets.
For instance, he explained, an artisanal processor would source raw materials and supply bulk products to an SME, which would concentrate on product development by way of packaging and marketing to supply to supermarkets.
Other policies geared at improving market access for smallholders that were proposed at the workshop include facilitation of contractual relationships through contract design, awareness creation and education on the ethics of contracting, as well as the promotion of demand-driven research and development (R&D) and innovation.
The head of programmes and advocacy of the Peasant Farmers Association (PFA), Charles Nyaaba, also urged the government to address market challenges in rural areas.
ACET’s Market Linkages Study is a project to analyse food systems and market challenges and weaknesses, and to propose recommendations for improving agricultural markets.
The study identified challenges smallholder farmers face in accessing markets and identified innovations being deployed to improve farmers’ access to markets.
The final report of the study is expected to be completed and launched next year.