“Do not engage in any agricultural enterprise that your neighbour does not eat,” Sam Iga Zinunula, a trainer, recently told the farmers.
His statement was alluding to the fact that many farmers start enterprises without carrying out a proper market survey.
He emphasised that the ultimate reason farmers go commercial is to sell their produce and earn money. But this is not easy unless they have proper marketing strategies.
Therefore, a farmer must make vital decisions in as far as marketing is concerned.
Produce food for local customers
This means that a farmer bears their neighbours in mind as the first customers. To ensure that this strategy is successful, a farmer should start with a simple list of all the products and services that are mostly consumed locally.
Why should a farmer grow aloe vera, when the neighbours or local market want pineapples?
Identify your farm market
This is important because it helps you to understand the market dynamics and the needs of your customers. Identify your farm’s potential customers by visiting market locations and talking to the actual consumers.
Know potential competitors
This helps you gauge their strengths and weaknesses and then use those to find your level in the market.
For example, do they produce off season? Then find a way of doing so also. Look at their branding and customer care and talk to consumers about their products.
If you are producing organically (without using artificial fertilisers), make sure that this message is loud and clear. If you are a poultry farmer whose layers produce yellow yolk eggs, make that clear too.
Timing is everything
Try to produce at a time when other farmers are not producing. This will lower competition and also give you a good profit. If you are selling directly to a market like St Balikudembe, make sure that you find out at what time consumers buy your product most.
What is my market?
Anthony Mateega, Uganda’s 2019 best farmer, advises farmers never to produce things that they cannot consume.
“The market starts from your house to the neighbours, before spreading,” he says.
He explains that as long as the product is good for you to consume, your neighbour will consume it and the people in the village will like it too.
This network will then help to spread the product further.
Silas Kamanyiro, who produces grapes and wine in Mbarara, says that if a person is producing ‘exotic’ products like grapes and wine, they need to visit supermarkets and people who they think can consume it.
“I have grown my market by talking to friends about my product at functions and visiting supermarkets around Mbarara,” Kamanyiro says.
“Whenever I have surplus production of chicks, I advertise in Harvest Money,” says Florence Kaweesa, who produces chicks.
Media adverts expose the farmer to a much wider audience from all over the world. But the bottom line is, be honest, produce quality goods and have the right quantities when customers come.
Visit common markets
When I produced my first batch of tomatoes, I visited Kalerwe Market and talked to the tomato dealers there,” says Henry Kayiira, who grows tomatoes in Kapeeka, Luwero district.
Other markets include Wandegeya, Nakasero, Nakawa, Natete, etc. Every upcountry town has also got a big common market.
Kayiira says although the prices that they offered were not good enough, the advice and experience he got from the traders was priceless.
“They bought my tomatoes, but, again, it is through them that I got the lucrative Sudanese market,” he says.