KAMPALA – How free are the farmers to sell their produce at the best prices in order to achieve maximum profits? Most Ugandan farmers don’t have that freedom and they are often exploited by traders and middlemen, which has made farming seem unprofitable and a poor man’s job. A number of factors are to blame.
Most farmers are vulnerable and are not in a position to decide on their own. They normally go into the production of commodities whose selling prices are not in a position to determine although they are the producers.
A farmer sets out to grow tomatoes or watermelon and then keeps worrying if the prices will be good by the time of harvesting the crops. It would seem, they are not the owners of their produce since it is the trader to decide how much to pay.
Due to the large size of most families, there is a constant shortage of money in nearly all households. Emergencies such as school fees or sickness often force farmers to sell their crops at low prices. A coffee farmer asks for advance payment from a trader for the coffee berries that are still green.
The trader sets a price which the needy farmer must accept. A month or two later, when the coffee is ripe, the trader harvests it from the farmer’s garden, dries it, processes it, and sells it at thrice the price he bought it.
This happens nearly always in most farming households every time there is an emergency.
Whenever the farmer puts himself at the mercy of a middleman to determine the price of a farm product he ends up the loser because most traders are Shylocks of sorts.
The majority of farmers have no storage facilities for perishable products like vegetables, bananas, fruits, milk, and eggs which they struggle to sell off quickly before they get spoilt. Often farmers have to accept the prices offered by the traders out of fear of losing the products when they get rotten. Yet producing the items involves purchasing inputs like pesticides, feeds, and medications whose prices remain high regardless of the products’ unpredictable marketing challenges.
Since we depend on rain-fed agriculture, most crops are produced at the same time, usually, following a rainy season and when all the other farmers have the same items in plenty. Excessive produce results in low prices for the farmer.