By Barbra Nambozo
The question about availability of market for farmers’ produce is common. It is often asked by people planning to join farming as a business or even some practicing farmers.
The majority of times, it is asked due to lack of information, which is one of the main productivity constraints among smallholder farmers.
But what is definite is that to get a ready market and good price for any agricultural produce, one ought to add value. Limited value addition limits profitability to agricultural producers and the overall economy.
Uganda’s Vision 2040 underscores the importance of adding value to agricultural products as a critical necessity in transforming the country from a peasant to a developed and prosperous nation.
Value addition in agriculture means increasing the economic value and consumer appeal of an agricultural commodity. Some farmers are already adding value to agricultural commodities by processing, cooling, drying, extracting and packaging.
Nonetheless, the appeal on value addition, especially to smallholder farmers (who constitute about 85% of the farming community) should firstly educate them on how to make their produce or services better at every stage of the value-chain.
A good illustration is about coffee. The crop, being a main ‘cash cow’ for most smallholder farmers in several parts of Uganda, presents countless opportunities to add value at every stage of the value-chain.
Notably, adding value to coffee starts on-farm. How you harvest the coffee berries matters a lot.
A farmer, who harvests only ripe cherries, stands a chance of attracting a better price than one who does otherwise. Harvesting unripe cherries affects the coffee quality in terms of the aroma and taste, among others.
In coffee production, quality is conditioned by many parameters, including defects related to bean colour and bean weight, among others. Even if the farmer is planning to sell kiboko (dried cherries), he ought to harvest only ripe cherries to avoid defects related to bean colour; which can also affect aroma.
After harvesting, the coffee should be dried on clean tarpaulins or a raised soil-free platform to avoid contamination. In the face of a changing climate, smallholder farmers can still add value to their farming ventures by using locally available and sustainable adaptation strategies.
Putting mulch in the garden can help improve soil moisture and prevent plants from drying out too quickly. Adding shade crops such as bananas to the garden helps to adapt the coffee systems to increasing temperatures, but also provide additional food and income to the farmer as he waits to harvest the coffee.
These are some of the many ways of adding value to the coffee bean to give it a competitive advantage, even before it leaves the farm. This can be applied across other crops.
It is true that the majority of smallholder farmers do not have improved technologies to enable them pursue more commercial agriculture. But it is beneficial, if such farmers scale-up value addition drives upward the value-chain through processing or making other products out of their produce.
Development Communication Officer
National Agricultural Research Organisation