Agro-BIG News

Modeling healthy linkages among VC stakeholders

 

One of the ultimate purposes of Agro-BIG is to link farmers to markets. If such a system succeeds, farmers produce a quality product, which is then bought to an official buyer with a lucrative price.

Last year, we initiated discussions with big buyers such as Etfruit. After a long process, an agreement was signed. This meant that farmers will supply quality onion to Etfruit and Etfruit will buy the products with market prices.

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On March 9, a first batch of onions was collected by Etfruit from 17 farmers in Fogera. When asked about the benefits of the linkages created between the two parties, Etfruit Marketing Officer Ato Masresha Asnakew from Bahir Dar explained that this is the first time such a contract has been signed in the Amhara region. “Etfruit is not solely for profit. We are also here to serve farmers and consumers”, he says. “Consumers benefit from fresh quality agricultural commodities whereas farmers will be encouraged to improve the quality of the produce, benefit from relatively good prices and finally, the agreement is a warranty and thus they don’t have to worry about where to sell their product.”

Photo 2 Farmers are collecting their onion harvest into plastic crates for Etfruit pickup.

The price of onion for farmers is determined at the Bahir Dar market. Etfruit will primarily sell the onion in Bahir Dar and in case of excess, in other parts of the country as well, even Addis Abeba.

Ato Alemer, one of the farmers involved in this contract agreement, was busy uprooting onions while we approached him for an interview. “Etfruit is buying our onion with the market price, which is eight birr per kilo. This would not have been the case had we sold our product to brokers”, he says. Furthermore, he claims the quality of his onion harvest was improved because of proper use of quality seeds and fertilizers. He also mentions an experience sharing visit organized by Agro-BIG. “Before, I used to water my onion field during the last day of harvest in order to make the weight of the onions heavier. Now I have stopped watering the field two weeks before I harvest”, Ato Alemer explains. The practice he learned from the experience sharing visit also improves the shelf life of onion.

Before Etfruit entered this agreement, several forums were organized to create common understanding. Etfruit quality control officers made field assessments to check the quality of onion before harvest. “There are still some quality issues which we will solve along the way, however, we do not want to discourage the farmers at such an early stage of the agreement”, Ato Kidu Gebremedhin, one of Etfruits’ quality control officers told us.

In addition to quality improvement needs, storages are needed for sorting and grading the onions. Currently, the collection by Etfruit is done at the field since storages are not yet there. However, Agro-BIG is supporting the building of them through its grant schemes. Agro-BIG is also trying to establish market linkages with other big buyers, such as consumer societies, prisons and universities. Currently, Ras Dashen Consumers Cooperative has been linked with onion producers in Fogera. The cooperative was expected to collect onions from Fogera during the first weeks of April.

Providing farmers with linkages to markets is not enough. It is equally important to have a quality product for sale. Agro-BIG has been supporting this through supplying quality inputs and by promoting recommended agricultural practices.

For example, last year a linkage was created between potato seed producers in Gayint and our project area in Mecha. A total of 600 quintals of potato seed was bought last year. At the beginning, farmers were a bit reluctant to buy the seeds but later they took and planted all the seeds. The results have been promising. A field day was organized in March 2015 to witness a potato farm planted with this improved seed. The growth of the plant looks better than that of the local varieties. Furthermore, producing quality onion seed has started successfully and a linkage has been created. Onion seed is currently being produced on a total of 12 hectares of land in Mecha. This seed is sold to farmers from Kobo and Shewa Robit, who in turn are selling onion bulbs to Mecha farmers. The farmers taking part in a field day in March 2015 appreciated the quality of onion seeds plants they saw and were encouraged to buy the seeds in the future.