traders are perceived to extract monopoly rents from farmers by offering very low prices. However, little attempt has been made to understand the behaviour of private traders and the factors that influence their behaviour. This study, therefore, examines the behaviour of private traders and determines the factors influencing their behaviour by means of the Chi-squared test. It further identifies the characteristics of smallholder farmers and private traders transacting with each other and examines the pricing, grading and weighting systems used by private traders, as well as the relationship that exists between farmers and private traders. Understanding private trader behaviour, factors influencing this behaviour, and the relationship between farmers and these private traders are important questions and have great implications for policy.
Primary data was used in this study which involved interviews and direct observations with both private traders and smallholder farmers. The sample sizes for private traders and smallholder farmers were 50 and 200, respectively. The data was collected in the Kalomo District of Zambia between June and August, 2015. Only those farmers that transact with private traders or use assembly traders as the marketing channel were included in this study. The data collected was analysed using gross marketing margin, the Chi-squared test and descriptive statistics. The measure of the extent of opportunistic behaviour was also used to achieve the study objectives.
The findings show that the mean price paid by private traders was ZMW 0.989 (USD 0.13) per kg and private traders were the ones who determine the prices and grades of maize. The private traders also weigh the maize and the smallholder farmers have little control on the final weight of the maize, as they do not participate in the weighing. This indicates that the private traders have power in the determination of the weight of maize. The majority of the private traders were found to behave opportunistically, accounting for 58 % of the surveyed traders. Experience and education level of the private traders were found to influence their behaviour. Given the importance of the above factors in influencing private trader behaviour, particularly experience and education, the results suggest that monitoring of the maize trading could potentially significantly reduce opportunistic behaviour among these less-experienced and less-educated traders. Lastly, the study reveals that 68.5 % of the smallholder farmers did not trust the private traders, whereas 46 % of the private traders did trust the farmers. The findings of this study indicate great potential for public sector investments in organisations that ensure standard weights (such as the Zambia Weights and Measures Agency 'ZWMA') and grades for maize. The ZWMA is the Zambian organisation responsible for enforcing weight institutions. An agency enforcing grading institutions for the smallholder maize farmers, however, does not exist in Zambia. Investment in such organisations would increase the levels of trust between farmers and traders, as neither would be suspicious of the weight or grade obtained, and possible opportunistic behaviour would be reduced.
The suggestions and recommendations given by this study should help reduce the possibilities for opportunistic behaviour and exploitation of smallholder farmers. Because this study is in line with Zambia's poverty reduction plan to reduce poverty levels through increased agricultural production and improved maize trading among smallholder farmers, the recommendations given will help improve maize trading and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. This is because they will be able to sell their maize at higher prices owing to reduced opportunistic behaviour of private traders, thus realising profits. The development of a grading system will lead to a better trading environment for both smallholder farmers and private traders, as both parties will be certain of the maize quality. In conclusion, a trading environment where organisations and institutions are in place, monitored and enforced to ensure reliable grading and weighing systems will help improve maize trading by smallholder farmers and private traders in Zambia. The improved maize trading will be the result of reduced opportunistic behaviour. This will ultimately increase the welfare of smallholder farmers and improve their livelihoods, which will contribute towards the reduction of the poverty levels in Zambia.
Dissertation (MSc (Agric))--University of Pretoria, 2016.