The farmer, the Market and the Middle men.

Less than two weeks ago, my mum and i visited dei dei market (one of cheapest tomato markets in abuja). We wanted to buy a basket of tomatoes, needless to say, the prices were through the roof, but that is not the reason for this post.
I would like to share our experience;  we got to the tomato section and we saw groups of tomato sellers with thier baskets in front of them, each screaming his price. The prices ranged from 14,ooo naia to 16,000. But there was this man that kept screaming his basket was 20,000 naira, his fruits looked healthier and stronger than all the others, but nobody would go close to him because nobody likes nice juicy tomatoes because we all want awuf
We ended  up buy the 14,000 naira basket for 13,000 the fruits looked relatively strong, with little or no water underneath, but on opening it, we were devastated. Half of the tomatoes in it were spoilt  (baje). Obviously, we had been cheated.
In this situation who do you think made more profit? The farmer? The middle man? Ofcourse its the middle man or men, he must have purchased the tomatoes at a very cheap price from the farmer, telling them they were already getting spoilt and selling it to us at a high price while swearing and promising that there wasn’t even one spoilt fruit in it. The same applies to poultry and other food produce,these middle men and women purchase them at a very low prices and then sell to the consumers in markets at high prices, leaving both the farmer and consumer feeling cheated.
This brings me to a burning question, is it possible to eliminate the middle men?  Or at least limit thier ability to rip off both the farmers and the consumers. Would the farmer still be able to sell thier produce in time and maximise profit without the help of these people? Why are farmers so dependent on these midddle men? My friend Bukar Ismail says its because we  are lazy, i think its because we do not have the capacity make contact with as many consumers as we’d like in a short period of time.  So what do we we need? Government policies? Farmers markets? More work on the part of the farmer at reaching more consumers?
I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section.
Abisola Oladele

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11 thoughts on “The farmer, the Market and the Middle men.

  1. We are in a country where the government care less about its people, they have good policies but never get to implement them because of corruption and many farmers especially the ones in deep rural areas have limited means of getting their produce to the consumers after harvest especially when there is glut. I think we need Farmers market where prices have been fixed by them and the produce are sold and bought at fair prices and everyone goes home happy. There is also a need for good farmers association especially in the rural areas because one farmer cannot do it alone due to obstacles. Through the association, they can pool funds, bring together their produce and transport them together to the market to sell them to the consumers without being cheated

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  2. Nice article bisola. I think we need more of farmers markets, were farmers can meet with consumers and sell farm produce directly to consumers.This way, I think middle men can be eliminated to an extent, farmers will be able to get more consumers, make more profit, and consumers won’t feel cheated anymore. I don’t support Government policies, bcos in d Nigeria of today,most policies are being swept under d carpet and it can take forever before it is being implemented.

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  3. weldone 4 d write up Bisola. Left to me, your primary burning question i.e “is it possible
    to eliminate the middle men?” receives a capital NO & if ever possible, it wil definitely be counterproductive bcos they also play a vital role in d marketing of farm products. The place, time & possesion gaps dat separate farmers from consumers are bridged by these middle men. Anyway, let me nt waste much time on that, let me focus my analytical lense on your secondary burning question (i.e is it possible to limit d ability of d middle men to rip off both farmers and the consumers?) since more serius facts on d way forward hinge on it.
    You see, d exploitation by the middle men is mainly as a result of market inefficiency, i.e lack of market integration (a situation whereby prices of a commodity in separated markets do not move together and price signals and information are not tramsmitted smoothly across markets). In an efficient market, post harvest price wil equal cost of storage & also d price spread between two markets (say farm gate & urban markets) will nt exceed d transportation cost of transfer btw d locations, a price higher dan dat provide opportunity for the middle men to mk more than normal profit.
    Anyway, i think i need nt bore you with details of terms but go straight to d way forward. Firstly, d existence of an efficient market is totally beyond d purview of d farmers, and there lies d strenght that the middle men use to subjugate them. It dosnt mean dey are lazy, dey often dont av anoda choice considering d perishability of farm products. Hence d need for intervention, intervention as how? ok, what if storage facilities are provided, to minimize d pressure to sell at any available price bcos of d fear of spoilage? what if information centres are made available to relay changes in prices to d farmers. and as commented by d previous reviewers, farmers themselves can come together and form association, opt for farmers market instead to rely totally on d middle men.
    secondly, effective credit facility to d farmers would also be very helpful to curtail d exploitation of middle men. In my undergraduate final project, my research was on rural-urban price transmission and market integration. In d course of d study, i found out dat many farmers accept some “unwholesome” price offer just to ensure they make their ends meet, hence availability of effective credit facility will reduce such pressure.

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  4. Nice one Bisola….well having a farmers market is a great idea and a very big step in the elimination of middlemen, but i would like to draw your attention to one factor that affects the availability of these produce and that is STORAGE… most agricultural produces that are being sold at these farmers markets are perishables…. if not sold that they they reduce in value and also quality and as such the farmer makes little or nothing from the sale at the farmers market.

    So here’s my point, the thing is not to eliminate middlemen but to check their activities, just as Faith said earlier the formation of associations, during my undergraduate days we had a presentation on Cooperative Marketing where we were to look for a Cooperative society and carry out a research on their activities and everything that has to do with the running of these societies.

    The outcome of our research:
    1. Most of this middlemen make their money from exploiting unsuspecting farmers by making them feel they have no where else to run to. The society aims at either dealing with the middlemen or the consumers directly (which might not be the final consumer).

    2. These societies deal with the respective agricultural bodies that are setup for the regulation of the distribution and pricing of agricultural produce which are either not accessible or known by most of these farmers whom are located in the remotest areas of the country.

    3. These societies interact with other societies that deal in same commodity but in different locations updating themselves about the prevailing market situations and pricing.

    4. These societies also provide credit facilities to its members to help produce their crops and also provide technical know-how and new technologies or hybrids which would help improve the production of these farmers productivity.

    So as you can see the middlemen are not really the problem but the main problem is the illiteracy of the farmers…so it is left up to us to sensitize these people how to protect themselves against being exploited by the middlemen….

    Shotunde Abayommy

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  5. Government has little or no contribution because their policies will have a minor effect on d small scale farmers. My suggestion is that every farmer who’s going to make it big in the sector ought to work hard in making sure s/he has his or her middle men. This means that; farming has to go beyond the traditional view of working in the farm nd selling to middlemen or to the consumers directly (for the small scale farmers). It has to be more of an organization where there ‘re various sections such as retailing, marketing, HR, nd the likes making up the farming process. This has three major advantages.
    1. The farming process wouldn’t be seen as a dirty job for the low qualified nd less privileged

    2. More educated people in other fields like accounting wouldnt mind being in a ‘farm company’. This also extends employment to other sectors of the economy.

    3. The price level of farm produce will be easily controlled, thereby driving the ‘cheaters’ out of the market.

    Well, like I said; this is for the farmer who’s willing to work hard to make it big in the sector. Thank you

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