This study focused on analysing the production and marketing constraints that often prevent smallholder farmers from accessing high-value markets in the agribusiness value chain. Access to markets is an essential requirement for the poor in rural areas to enjoy the benefits of agricultural growth. Limited access to agricultural markets by smallholder farmers in rural areas represents one of the most important challenges confronting policymakers in developing countries. Several studies have indicated how smallholder farmers can be linked to markets, but they have failed to address issues of how to increase the likelihood of smallholder farmers benefiting from high-value markets. Due to the stringent sourcing criteria of formal markets, small-scale farmers are excluded from the agricultural value chains. It may be easy to access the market, but it is very difficult for smallholder farmers to retain that market. This is attributed to the fact that smallholder farmers face various constraints along the value chain such as production and marketing constraints. The main objective of this study was to identify and analyse the constraints confronting smallholder farmers in the Limpopo Province and to suggest different strategies that can be used to make it easier for smallholder farmers to access high-value markets in the agribusiness value chain. This was achieved through personal interviews in two districts, i.e. the Capricorn and Vhembe districts. Primary data was obtained through structured questionnaires in both districts. These two districts were chosen due to their uniqueness with regard to agricultural potential, with smallholder farmers in both districts being heterogeneous and confronting different constraints in producing and marketing their products. Producing for the market calls for production resources, including production means such as land, water, on-farm and off-farm infrastructure, labour force, capital, and good management of these resources. Poor access to these resources affects the way in which smallholder farmers can benefit from opportunities in agricultural markets, especially in terms of the volume of products traded and the quality and quantity of those products. Based on the surveys employed for purposes of this study, the participation of smallholder farmers in high-value markets is constrained as a result of poor access to comprehensive agricultural support services. There are relatively few direct linkages between smallholder farmers and fresh produce markets, supermarkets, and agro-processors. The majority of sales by farmers are at either the local market or the farm gate level. Few farmers have access to basic production equipment and infrastructure. A range of impediments to participation in high-value markets were identified. These include lack of access to sufficient and productive land for expansion, sufficient water, modern irrigation systems, mechanisation, transport logistics, and market information. These constraints constitute the greatest barrier for smallholder farmers when it comes to accessing high-value markets, and overcoming these constraints is critical if smallholder farmers are to access lucrative markets. There is relatively low participation among farmers in collective action, more especially at production and marketing levels. The study found that smallholder farmers in the Vhembe district have a comparative advantage in terms of vegetable production compared to those in the Capricorn district. Smallholder farmers in the Vhembe district are better linked to agro-processors, fresh-produce markets and supermarkets as compared to farmers in the Capricorn district – even though this is the case for only a few individual farmers. The study also found that individual producers have greater access to on-farm infrastructure and also perform better and have closer links to formal markets compared to projects owned by groups of households. The results of the study suggest that smallholder farmers who are currently not participating in high-value markets could improve their participation if they are given access to comprehensive agricultural support services. More attention must be given to supporting smallholder farmers in both districts to ensure that they engage in commercial production and participate in high-value markets on a sustainable basis. This could only happen if their constraints along the value chain are addressed. The major challenge confronting policymakers is to create an enabling environment for smallholder farmers and empower them to produce high volumes of good-quality products on a consistent and sustainable basis.
Dissertation (MInstAgrar)--University of Pretoria, 2010.