News and knowhow for farmers

Farmers advised to identify markets before production to avoid poor prices

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Small-scale farmers must first identify the market for goods they intend to produce to avoid surplus and competition that lead to low prices.

Charles Odida, a renowned Western Kenya large-scale sugarcane and maize farmer said producing for imaginary consumers chocks the market, which cannot seep the surplus.

Farmers sell produce at low prices when there is a surplus harvest to even recover costs incurred, moreso for perishables. Even non-perishables like grains, still sell at dismal prices for fear of post-harvest losses resulting from poor storage.

“Before one starts producing maize, they must know who their target market is. It will be helpful to know if indeed a given institution will need one’s product after harvesting. This will also guide how much one needs to produce to meet the demand of the clients,” he said.

For instance, maize, which he has produced on small-scale and large-scale, he first contacted institutions and asked them how much they would need in a year.

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Based on this information, he had a target to meet, therefore, adhering to the correct ratio of inputs was the only option to deliver a yield that would satisfy all his clients.

“When I was still at primary school, I identified that teachers needed vegetables. I had to work out how to constantly supply them with vegetables. I curved out my market, which never faced competition or loss due to lack of market,” Odida said.

The farmer added that he has succeeded in agribusiness on more than 100 acres because of focusing on the quantity of the yield per acre, not the size of his maize and sugar fields.

He said technology should only complement existing knowledge such as proper timing, best crop husbandry in the field, and proper post-harvest practices to maximise profits.

Odida played down claims that many agribusiness innovations are shelved for lack of implementation funds.

“Agriculture is the only enterprise that allows for farmers to start with the least capital. Even with a big piece of land, you can start small on a portion, which can swallow inputs that you afford. After the first harvest, you can increase the acreage following good return from the past season,” he said.

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Umati Capital’s Munyutu Waigi cautioned farmers against cooperatives, which he said do not add value other than eating into their earnings.

At the same time, he said, bank loans do not add value to production, and access to funds is too slow.

Kenya Biologics Chief Executive Officer said high yields can be realised by more specialisation on a given product.

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