African farmers and agribusinesses need fair access to markets
Poor market information has made the ability to monitor market prices in close to real time difficult
GRACE NSOMBA AND SIMON ROBERTS | Southern and Eastern Africa face the twin challenges of growing agricultural production to meet food demand while adapting to extreme weather. And climate change makes addressing these challenges extremely urgent.
Southern Africa is a climate change hotspot. Eastern Africa is projected to still have good average rainfall, although temperatures will increase and floodings become more frequent.
There is huge potential for meeting these twin challenges across Eastern and Southern Africa, where there are in fact good soils and water availability in many countries.
However, markets are not working well, especially for small and medium-scale farmers and agri-businesses which are at the heart of inclusive food value chains. These participants are often not receiving fair prices for their produce due to the way markets have been working, including powerful interests, high transport costs and poor facilities such as those for storage.
Analysing market failures requires information. Yet, poor market information has made the ability to monitor market prices in close to real time difficult across much of the region. Up-to-date information on food prices is critical to understanding agricultural food systems in the region and for collectively planning responses. Information on food prices should be accompanied by other market information relating to production and market structures.
To address this, the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development has launched a market observatory. This is one part of supporting smaller producers in negotiating fair prices and in identifying measures to make markets work better across the region.
Markets not working well
Volatility over time, and very large price differentials between areas in Eastern and Southern Africa for key crops such as soybeans and maize, reflect markets that are not working well for producers or buyers such as agro-processors.
The price differentials point to potential local market power being exploited and big profit margins being earned by large traders. The spread of larger traders across the region is meant to have heralded more efficient markets. However, market outcomes and high levels of concentration at various levels of supply chains indicate that there are also major concerns about market power.
For example, over the past 12 months, the patchy data supported by anecdotal information indicate that soybean prices have been extremely high in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi (above US$900 per tonne). This while there is great potential to supply from areas within Tanzania as well as from Uganda, Malawi and Zambia.
Prices in areas such as Zambia and southwest Tanzania were below $400/t in May after the harvest and around $500 in Malawi. The difference between the producing areas and the cities is consistent with farmers getting offered unfairly low prices by large buyers. Large buyers are taking advantage of the poor storage and the lack of other market options available for the farmers. Farmers have to accept the low prices being offered.
The transport costs to the main urban markets should not account for more than $100/t of the difference between $400 or $500 and $900, meaning that massive profits have been made by the “middle-men” or traders. In competitive markets, trading margins would reflect reasonable costs and not super profits.
These profit margins are at the expense of farmers, who receive low prices, while high prices are charged to agribusinesses and consumers in urban areas. This undermines production in the region and contributes to high food prices.
Also, large and integrated processors and traders have their own transporters and infrastructure, and better market information. Smaller market participants are therefore charged massively inflated transport costs where they look to bypass traders and organise their own sales.
Some market participants in Tanzania have resorted to placing loads on buses in recent months, incurring very high costs and yet still receiving the product at much lower than the prevailing prices in Dar es Salaam.
Lack of Agronomists worries grape farmers in Mbarara
Grape farmers in Mbarara are concerned that they are earning less from the crop due to the absence of an agronomist to offer expertise on the processes for growing and harvesting the crop.
There are more than 200 grape farmers in Ibaare, Nyamatojo and Nyakayojo, all in the South Division of Mbarara City, where more than three hills are fully covered with the crop. They are mainly planting Muscat and Karmen, which thrive well in semi-arid areas.
But the farmers said that they are growing the crop without clear information on the ideal varieties of grapes grown in Uganda, and knowledge of soil management, site preparation, planting, pruning, pest and disease control, fertilizer application as well as harvesting.
By nature of their work, agronomists work with farmers to help them grow the best possible crops, based on their extensive knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, earth science, ecology, and genetics. They usually conduct experiments to develop the best methods for increasing the quality and production of crops and develop methods for protecting crops from weeds, pests, and harsh climates.
Alex Asiimwe, the Chairperson of Mbarara Grape Farmers Cooperative Limited said that without a specialist in the region, many of them are left to gamble with the crop. Often, he says, they struggle to manage the spread of pests in grape plantations.
James Mugabi, a grape farmer said he once lost more than 25 tons of grapes to fungus, which he didn’t know and failed to get the best drug. He narrates that once the crop has been attacked by either a pest or disease, the entire plantation is destroyed.
Allan Namanya, a grapes farmer from Katojo said the absence of an agronomist is costing them a lot since grapes are considered the most lucrative crop at the moment. He says that a kilogram of grapes costs between 2,500 and 3,000 Shillings and a bottle of wine costs 20,000, yet it can even cost much higher than this if they are advised on the right farming practices.
Mbarara city Agricultural Officer, Vincent Mugabi, said that the department also has a shortage of personnel knowledgeable about the relatively new crop for the area. He wants the government to consider taking them for training to acquire knowledge.
Grapes are harvested twice a year, in April/May and November/December seasons. They were introduced in Mbarara at Nyamitanga hill the Catholic seat by missionaries in the 1960s.
Original Source: URA via The Independent
Farmers in Napak want security forces deployed in gardens
A section of farmers in Napak District is demanding for the deployment of security personnel in gardens to prevent attacks by suspected Karamojong warriors.
This follows a message that was sent to one of the phones belonging to the community member in Nabwal sub county threatening people to stop cultivation or else their cattle will be stolen. Suspected warriors have also been dropping leaflets in the villages warning farmers of possible attacks in case they risk going to cultivate in their gardens.
Robert Koryang, a resident of Lotome trading center, says that they are worried of going to their farm gardens which are far away from their home because of threats from the cattle raiders.
Koryang said the warriors are still hunting for cattle and they see the farming season as an opportunity to target farmers who use oxen for ploughing.
He observed that the persistent insecurity in the region frustrated their efforts to cultivate last year leading to a hunger crisis.
Judith Anyakun, another farmer recalls that early last year a suspected raider chased them out of their farms before making off with four oxen that were used for ploughing.
She suggested that the security forces should be deployed in their settlements nearer to the fields so that they are able to respond to any attack that may occur during farm activities.
John Paul Kodet, the LCV Chairperson for Napak, says that they are taking the threats seriously because the warriors have been issuing warnings to the communities before attacking.
Kodet said they have distributed seeds to the farmers but he is skeptical if communities shall be able to cultivate due to threats from suspected warriors.
He noted that some villages in the sub-counties of Lopei, Lokopo, and Lotome are very distant from the military installations and this puts them at high risk of being attacked.
Kodet appealed to the government to tighten security in the targeted areas such that people will be able to cultivate without fear.
Denis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the security forces already have the intelligence about the planned attacks and measures have been put in place to protect the communities.
Okori said they have designed strategic plans on how the deployment will be conducted and therefore farmers should not get worried because the government is trying everything possible to ensure there is peace.
He also confirmed receipt of the phone used for sending threats and it has been taken to the Internal Security Organization for tracking.
Okori urged the communities not to worry but instead clear the gardens for farming in order to fight hunger in the families as security does its part to protect them.
Last year, the residents of Napak district suspended the use of oxen for ploughing over fears of being attacked by suspected warriors. The cattle were only kept from the confined kraals and only released during the day for grazing, and returned in the evening when the army took responsibility for keeping them.
Original Source: URN via The Independent
Mbarara struggling to contain Rift Valley Fever, no livestock quarantine yet
The government is reluctant at imposing the livestock quarantine on Mbarara despite registering five confirmed cases of death among humans resulting from Rift Valley Fever, the Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Turyabagyenyi Kateera has revealed.
According to Kateera , when they informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about the outbreak, they deployed a team on the ground to manage the situation. Mbarara District Veterinary Officer, Andrew Bakashaba, says that registered fifty cows infected by Rift Valley Fever in Rwanyamahembe Sub County on different farms.
He, however, says that they are currently managing the situation through sensitization. Bakashaba has warned residents against eating meat from animals that have died on their own, noting that Rift Valley Fever is only transmitted from animals to humans through infected meat.
He has also asked people to always watch out for meat that has a veterinary medical stamp as proof that it’s been tested and found to be clean. Turyabagyenyi said that they have directed extension workers to hold engagement and sensitization meetings with farmers and livestock traders on how to do self-preservation on their farms and the movement of animals.
He said they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to hold on imposing a quarantine as they monitor the situation on the ground noting that if the situation goes out of hand they would be left without any choice but to announce the quarantine.
He says they have deployed veterinary doctors at all known slaughter slabs and asked them to double-check the meat before and after it is delivered to butchers. Dr. Richard Atuhairwe, the in-charge of Bwizibwera Health Centre IV, says that the disease was detected among 30 people, and results from Uganda Virus Research Institute returned positive. He says that five of the thirty have since died.
Rift Valley Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is most commonly seen in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats and can also cause illness in people. It is caused by the Rift Valley Virus. Meanwhile, a Quarantine has been imposed on Byembogo Village in Nyabisirira Town Council after a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on one farm.
Turyabagyenyi says a farm belonging to one Mr. Mungonya with over 1500 cattle had been stopped from sending out cattle and animal products like milk from the farm. He says that they have also temporarily closed the Kyeshema livestock market that is shared between Kiruhura and Mbarara districts noting that Kiruhura had last week closed its side.
He says they are now moving to vaccinate all animals in the village as they monitor the situation.
Original Source: URN via The independent
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