Mango farmers benefit immensely from collective marketing

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Mango is the king of fruits. It is one of the most popular and nutritionally rich fruits with unique flavour and health promoting qualities, thus making it the most popular seasonal fruit grown in the tropics. Mango is a valuable fruit tree grown in arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya where income generating activities available to the resource poor farmers are limited.

“I prefer planting mangoes because they are drought resistant, have a long lifespan, yield more than any other produce, they are easy to plant and to manage, and require less water,” says Mrs. Mary Wayua Kyule, a farmer from Mutulani village in Makueni County.

However, despite the economic importance of mangoes in Kenya, market access is facing three main constraints:

(i) Mango farmers lack organization

Unlike the dairy milk sector which is more organized and has fewer players, a majority of small-scale mango farmers are not organized in any form of marketing groups, instead, they rely on brokers to sell their mangoes. This results in low farm gate prices for the farmers. “Over the years I have been forced to sell to brokers despite the low prices to meet my immediate financial needs. I am not able to reach far-away-markets which I know could offer better prices because it is too costly to transport mangoes. Brokers collect the mangoes right at the farm-gate though I know they exploit us,” laments Mary Wayua.

(ii) Lack of market information and transport

Due to the perishable and bulk nature of mangoes and lack of market information and organized marketing farmers' groups have a weak bargaining position. However, in Mutulani village in Makueni County, things are different. Members of Pamoja Mango Farmers Group are reaping the benefits of collective selling.

“Access to market for our mangoes has been our biggest nightmare in this village for some time- but with us coming together; we can now sell our mangoes to big buyers without worry,” says Mary Mbula, a member of the farmer’s group.

“Markets are not the only major challenge in the mango industry in Kenya in general. Other challenges include lack of organized marketing groups, insufficient aggregation centres where traders and exporters can easily collect sufficient mango quantities and inadequate market information, all of which have significantly contributed to the poor performance of the mango industry,” observes Mr. Josephat John Nzui, the Chairman of Pamoja Mango Farmer group.

(iii) Lack of external markets and value addition

When farmers are together in a group it is easy to train them on both improved mango production farming techniques and post harvest losses. Kenyan mango farmers continue to lose out on the lucrative European market because of the mango fruit fly which can be controlled. Many farmers who belong to groups have benefitted from organizations like ICIPE who conduct trainings on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices that have impact in controlling mango fruit flies. Farmers’ groups like the Pamoja Farmers Group now have a bargaining position to access markets that pay well unlike what the brokers pay. Pamoja Farmers Group sells collectively to a processor. “We sell our produce to a processor who then processes the mango fruits into different semi-finished and or ready-to use products like juices, dry mango chips, and mango pulp,” says Mr. Josephat John Nzui the group’s chairman.

Opportunities

Selling to processors: The Pamoja Farmers Group, which has 40 members has been selling mangoes collectively to a processor since August 2011. The members of the group are small-scale farmers with an average of 2 acres. Unless farmers sell their mangoes collectively, they will continue to be further constrained by poor road network and lack of modern market structures, thus a big proportion of the fruits will be sold at throw away prices or end up rotting on the farms.

Training: “Farmers should get organized into formal groups for higher production and quality. This will enable them get more information on production and markets. Lack of information is one of the aspects traders use to exploit farmers”, advises John Nzui. “Farmers who receive information from buyers at the farm-gate are not guaranteed of the legitimacy of this information,” cautions Mr. Nzui.

About 20km away, from Mr. Nzui’s farm is the Kipawa Farmers’ Group which has even gone a step further by adding value to their mangos. “We have been engaging in mango processing to decrease post-harvest losses and extend shelf life, create variety and hence widen the market, add value, thereby generating extra income, creating new investment and employment opportunities, and improving the nutritional quality of mangoes”, says Ann Nduku, the group’s organizing secretary.

The mango farming community has now realized that working together really makes good profits. There is a big difference between farmers who sell collectively and those selling as individuals to brokers. With the good income from mangoes, rural farmers are now able to send their children to school and even build better homes for their families while investing in improved livestock breeds.

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