Market information is essential for effective business decisions, more so on agricultural value-chains. It is also critical ingredient in the development of agricultural programmes. However, smallholder farmers seldom feel the impact of market information either because the information does not efficiently cover them or information on them is limited or does not exist at all. One of the key factors that can contribute to viability of the agricultural sector, particularly in developing areas, is the acceleration of the collections of reliable and comprehensive industry data, including on smallholder farmers, to assess progress the smallholder farmers have made overtime against the benchmark of reliable historical data.
The Marketing of Agricultural Products Act, Act No.47 of 1996, makes provision for directly affected groups especially agricultural industries (through commodity groups) to utilise statutory measures, relating to submission of records and returns and registration of role-players in particular industries utilising the measures. This is deemed necessary to ensure that continuous, timeous and accurate statistics and information relating to the characteristics and marketing is generated in industries with these measures. Centralised source of reliable, user-friendly and objective statistics on the agricultural sector at any given time and point, is critical to guiding policy makers and attracting investment in the sector.
It is against the above that some of the key information collected through statutory measures by some commodity groups includes; producer deliveries, imports and exports data, number of cows in milk and dry, slaughter numbers, produce kept for own consumption, commitments and processed produce data. The information is collected from weekly to annual basis, this differs industry by industry and is based on the industry market intelligence needs.
The above measures play a critical role in the South African Supply and Demand Estimates Committee, in the grains and oilseeds industry. This system captures, considers and confirms new information about supply and demand variables of grains and oilseeds, available in the market at a specific time and is of critical importance for the countries food security state. Due to the long history of the above measures in some industries, it is possible that had it not been for the above measures, data and information on the commercial agricultural sector would not be this developed.
The importance of collection of data and dissemination of consolidated data in the agricultural sector has also been recognised by government, this has been through the agricultural abstract and from time to time through the agricultural census on commercial agriculture. Furthermore, in 2018 Government launched the Producer/Farmer Register. This register aims to improve misrepresented statistics of smallholder farmers across the country.
However, even with above systems by commodity groups and government there is still very limited data available on smallholder farmers and the above-mentioned systems, should play critical role in building data on smallholder farmers. These databases on smallholder farmers market share are critical for better planning, implementation and monitoring of interventions to transform the agricultural sector. The above systems should have a function of collecting and processing market data on smallholder farmers systematically and continuously, and making it available to them in a form relevant to enhance their productivity and better their business intelligence. These systems must be further utilised to build market intelligence, to enhance smallholder farmers market participation.
Dr Ndumiso Mazibuko is a Senior Economist with the National Agricultural Marketing Council and writes in his own personal capacity