Good relationships are enormously important to farmers, but the most important relationship is the one the farmer has with those who sell his produce. They play a key role in the success of his marketing plans.
Where deals were sealed with handshakes in the past, in today’s faster, more demanding and highly competitive world, farmers need contracts and agreements in place.
Often there is no contract between the farmer and the seller, although you may have a contract with the supermarket who takes your produce. A good marketing relationship, which is not written down on paper, between you, the producer, and the marketer of what you have grown, or produced, is essential.
If you have a market agent, you send him your produce in good faith and he sells it on your behalf. You need to involve him closely in your marketing plans and actions. This is an act of trust that will result in him responding through good service and fighting to get you the best possible price.
The need for a solid relationship is vital because of the perishability of your products. The Zambian market is not formalised yet, but it’s coming, and even in informal markets the same principles are at play. Markets can change so quickly, for instance if it gets hot or rains hard, the market can be immediately affected.
The agent then has to make quick decisions about your products and that’s where the healthy relationship kicks in. He has to understand your objectives, so that he can decide in line with your marketing aims.
Call on your agent at the market fairly frequently. If you’re far from the market try to make at least two trips a year to see the agent. Remember market action happens in the morning so get there early. Network with other buyers and promote your product.
The agent should also visit you on the farm; see your set-up, get a feel for your operations and see what you’re growing. Take him into the fields and walk through crop lands so that he understands your farming methods.
At times the relationship can be seriously challenged. When this happens ask yourself one question: ‘Do I still trust my agent?’. Step away from the commotion and if your answer is yes, try and sort out the problem. When you have the relationship right and there is mutual respect, you can go ahead with plans and action. Over time you will see the results in the prices you get, the volumes you move and your bottom line.
- This article was written by Michael Cordes and first appeared in Farming SA.