7. Producing for the market
Your main role in marketing is to improve the understanding of your farmers about marketing and how they can become more commercial and profitable by producing crops that are demanded by the market. This chapter considers ways in which farmers can adapt their production to meet the market's needs. Most farmers are naturally conservative and will be reluctant to go into new enterprises, because they involve risk. New crops or the introduction of new technologies or production techniques should, therefore, initially be undertaken on a small-scale trial basis.
Pre-production issues and production planning
Growers need advice on which crops to grow and what market opportunities they can target. While the final decision must always be that of the farmers, you should be able to help them plan their production. Although production issues, such as labour availability and crop rotations, have to be taken into account, the key factor affecting production decisions is that production must be market-oriented. This means producing products for which there is a demand and which farmers can grow profitably.
Individual crop selection. Crop selection should be based on the likely net returns of the major alternative agricultural enterprises (see Table 8). These calculations will establish which products are likely to be the most profitable. They can be discussed with farmers.
Market research should have shown which local products are likely to be most successful in terms of cost, quality or seasonality, compared with products from other areas. The research should also have shown which varieties are favoured and the best time to supply them. These findings need to be converted into practical recommendations for farmers, covering such issues as:
varieties favoured by the market;
sowing dates (e.g. whether to extend the period of supply or aim for a particularly high-priced period). Whether to avoid times of oversupply;
other techniques to extend production into high-priced periods, such as using late or early varieties, transplanting, or using polythene tunnels or irrigation;
techniques to improve quality, such as optimum fertilization, crop protection, pruning, irrigation, and weather protection.
Table 8 sets out a summary of the comparative costs and returns of three different crops. Although Crop C returns the highest sales, its profitability is less than for
Crops A and B. Farmers should be aware of the difference between gross returns (i.e. the value of sales) and net returns (i.e. the value of sales after deduction of costs). They must consider likely net returns when planning what to produce.