Searching for a market strategy for finger millet in Tanzania
One of the HOPE project objectives in Eastern and Southern Africa is to discover and develop improved market strategies for finger millet to stimulate adoption of improved production technologies. Towards this goal, the HOPE Project seeks to identify intervention points along the value chain to restructure existing market channels for the crop. A first step in this agenda is to determine what market channels exist for finger millet, who the players are, and how such channels operate across the value chain.
In early 2011, ICRISAT scientists linked to HOPE Project carried out a market and value chain survey for finger millet in Tanzania. The aim of the survey was to have an overview of the value chain of finger millet from production to consumption. The survey also sought to identify marketing channels in Tanzania and measure profit margins at different stages along the market channels.
According to Dr. Christin Schipmann, an ICRISAT agricultural economist based in Nairobi, Kenya, the value chain approach is a very useful analytical tool for taking a more objective look at the organizations of markets. It allows for examining the consequence of empowering farmers and identifying how to link them to other market players. It also helps to identify possible partnerships across the value chain.
The survey studied finger millet producers, processors, traders and consumers in Singida, Tanzania. In the survey report, Dr Schipmann says that “finger millet is mostly used as a cash crop and it is sold as grain. Processors use finger millet to produce flour, in pure form, as well as blended with other grains”. According to Dr. Schipmann, farmers already have access to different market options, however, their commercialization can and should be improved by training them on quality issues, linking them directly to processors and promote the selling of finger millet in groups.
Dr. Christin Schipmann in a group discussion with finger millet farmers
Wholesaling and processing were found to be the two most effective ways of generating profits. Prices were found to be relatively higher because value addition was reflected in terms of re-grading, re-packaging and threading. However, most farmers currently sell finger millet in small quantities and without any kind of processing. Thus, they mention low prices as the biggest constraint in the commercialization of finger millet. Other problems are unknown market places as well as unknown buyer preferences. The latter two stress the importance of improving farmers’ access to market information. Moreover, by linking farmers to buyers outside the village, they can learn about quality requirements of the market like color, cleanliness and other. A direct link to urban buyers as well as the organization in market groups can also improve the negotiation power of farmers in regard to prices.
“The findings of the survey will be put in use in the remaining 1.5 years of the HOPE Project. Activities like warehouse receipt systems, linking farmers
with processors and others are planned. As a starting point, the HOPE economists in Kenya together with partners from the National Research System in Tanzania held a feedback workshop about their findings with farmers in Central Tanzania. They agreed that farmers would organize themselves in groups and ICRISAT helps these groups to get in touch with some selected buyers in Northern Tanzania. This project activity will start before the next planting season, so that selling agreements are put in place by harvest time. Similar activities will follow in other countries, where the HOPE project is operating”, she concludes.