The African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (Aicc) has challenged farmers to form groups for crop aggregation before selling to get good prices.
In a statement, Aicc project manager Leonard Chimwaza said aggregating crops to sell in bulk gives farmers bargaining power for good prices than when producing and selling as individuals.
The statement follows last year’s winding up of a four- year Sustainable Agriculture Lead Farmer Programme that targeted 5 000 farmers in Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Ntchisi, Dowa and Lilongwe Rural.
Chimwaza said at the end of the programme, the total aggregated volumes hit 1.8 million kilogrammes (kg) of maize, soya, groundnuts and horticultural products sold collectively through the commodity aggregation centres.
Each centre had marketing committee and buyers included Mount Meru, CP Feeds, Sunseed Oil and Export Development Fund.
Said Chimwaza: “We worked with the farmers using various viable technologies that made the cost of production become reasonable, leading to increase in profits.
“For example, in a period of four years, farmers in Ntchisi in Chipuka Extension Planning Area sold collectively 654 tonnes of maize, soya and groundnuts and in total and raked in K324 million.”
He said markets were identified through trade fairs in districts and business-to-business meetings organised in regions.
Chimwaza said said through collective marketing, farmers were also trained in grading so that they sell quality products.
Among the challenges, he mentioned the export ban which affected maize sales; hence, buyers were reluctant to buy from farmers.
Other challenges included fall armyworms that affected production and the lack of proper marketing system.
Aicc advocated for structured marketing for all commodities as the case with other crops such as tea tobacc and coffee.
Agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said in an interview on Friday that working in groups is better for small-scale farmers because through aggregation of their farm produce, they are able to meet volumes required on structured markets that fetch better prices. So far, the country has two structured markets, namely, African Commodity Exchange for Africa and Auction Holdings Commodity Exchange, a subsidiary of AHL Group.