It is a fact that nearly 90% of agricultural produce found in retail stores come from commercial farmers. By definition, commercial farmers are predominantly white and have influence in the entire value chain.
Whosoever invented the slogan ‘at the right quality, right quantity, at the right price and at the right place’ was mischievous. This commercial slogan virtually excludes African farmers from participating in the market.
101 agricultural economics will inform you that to meet this slogan, a typical African farmer will need reliable transportation, superior quality produce (often requiring arduous certification), offer produce at below market price to access the formal market (which he or she cannot afford). All these factors attribute to one thing only; they cost money.
As an emerging farmer espousing to supply retail, where will one get such resources to begin with?
The value African farmers place in pursuing formal markets is mundane and costly. We all cheer when an African farmer supplies a retail market but we never pose to reflect if indeed they have survived and are competing.
Many African farmers have been locked into contracts that prevents them from airing the reasons behind their retail failures. None of the farmers under retail development programmes are also keen to speak publicly because of the fear of retribution or being in bridge of their contracts.
Surprisingly thou, many African farmers are now waking up to the corrupt collusion of suppressing their progress. “If it is not by us it is not for us” is a new attitude adorned by an African farmer.
Over social media platforms, African farmers are aggressively employing guerrilla marketing tactics by delivering agriculture produce straight to the consumer.
This trend however is not new. In the 1950’s blacks residing in dingy townships were left to feed themselves with big retail stores only reserved for whites. It is here the likes of billionaire Richard Maponya cut their teeth in business and sold fresh tribe, milk, fruit and vegetables straight to households.
In the late 1990’s, the rise of decks “small fruit and vegetables stalls in townships” mushroomed developing the science of mixed vegetables (indigenous knowledge stolen). Such markets are now dying a premature death due to the monopoly of food retail stores.
In a brute hostile environment designed to limit the African farmer, there is no probable cause to stay static and wait for government to descend its grace. Bureaucracy is a strategic intent to delay services. Most concerning is that some farmers have been waiting for over 5 years to be paid for services rendered to hospitals, clinics and schools.
At a Chinese School a colleague observed an interesting phenomenon. Every weekend, the Chinese community hosts a food day market reserved for only Chinese sellers (vendors) with buyers being anyone from anywhere.
“Imagine if all our primary schools had a similar thing, would our farmers still be complaining about market access?” he quipped.
The learned colleague was not only naïve but missing the point of what was unravelling before him. First, the Chinese preferred to feed themselves and keep their food traditions intact even for their children to pass down the custom. Second, building the local Chinese economy using food market was paramount to their existence and influence in the cosmopolitan community they were residing in. Now was the time for African farmers to ignite local economies and develop family food markets much like in Japan, USA, Germany etc. Schools were the perfect ground to begin with (over weekends) as it can provide a chance for children to be loyal to agriculture than fast food.