Should farmers and traders embrace Agricultural Market Information?

By Acayo Christine Gloria, Media and Public Relations Officer

It is clear that developing an efficient, relevant and sustainable Market Information System is far from easy. Many organizations and agencies have however taken it upon themselves to collect and promote these systems for the benefit of both farmers and traders.

What is Agricultural Market Information?

This is price information on products and services collected and compiled clearly displayed for the user-farmers and traders indicating prices for them to make a decision on whether to buy or not buy a certain commodity or to compare prices from different markets.

Why should farmers take up agricultural market information?

Market Information Systems have been proven to have significant benefits to traders, farmers, NGOs, government and other stakeholders dealing in agribusiness. This has been attributed to its ability to simplify decision making as it guides farmers on where to sell; farm gate, village market, assembly market, wholesale market or whether to use middle men.

Because price broadcasts give a basis of negotiations, it helps farmers to know whether they are negotiating well with traders as well as if their agents in the wholesale markets are getting them good deals for their produce in addition to allowing for product comparison with other producers.

It equally helps farmers and traders to make decisions on whether to sell or store their produce basing on the projections for current and future prices (this helps them avoid losses and gain profits).

The fact that market information informs potential traders of trading opportunities, it has the ability to increase the number of outlets for the farmers to sell their produce and lead to greater competition among traders in the area thus leading to trade and market development. Also, when farmers are provided with price information on various crops, it gives them an opportunity to decide on which crop will be more beneficial to them in case they choose to invest in it depending on the cost of producing and selling them.

Historical price trends reveal the periods when prices of certain commodities are highest, average or lowest giving farmers the opportunity to decide on which season to grow or not grow and whether to use modern farming techniques like irrigation to have better yields.

It is quite difficult to control or avoid any risks associated with farming but knowing prices helps farmers to understand whether it is worth sending their produce to the market at a particular time. The actual price of the produce may be lower than the production costs therefore it may be better to consume the food other than selling at a loss thus reducing marketing risks.

Market information is equally helpful for planning and evaluation purposes as this information can be used by the government and NGOs in planning for the economy and which kinds of produce to be given more priority. For instance, in identification of food security problems, changes in prices provide an indication or confirmation of localized food shortages in addition to statistical data being used to evaluate the performance of a given commodity in the economy.

Who collects this market information?

Many organizations dealing with market information dissemination usually have their agents in various markets from all over the country to collect the various market prices of chosen commodities. These data collectors are either part time or employed full time on the job. To be successful in collecting information, the agents need to have experience in the areas of collection and equally identify with the traders in specific markets. They need to build up good relationships with these information providers in order to have efficient and quality information.

How is this data collected and verified?

When data is collected, it goes through various stages before it is disseminated to the end users. It involves a number of aspects which relate to who should collect information, how often and when, where and what kind of information-prices, varieties, quantity, quality, bulk buyers and transporters depending on the identified information needs. It is important to conduct this collection on a regular basis to permit a reliable analysis.

The importance of market information is therefore unarguably there but the challenge comes in during implementation of a successful service as well as its sustainability. Organizations interested in this should thus aim at promoting initiatives in the sector to attain equitable growth hence increasing economic competitiveness.