This post is different to what I usually write. It is a “thinking out loud” kind of post. So please bear with me.
I shared with you a few months ago, about how I used to sell vegetables at the farmer’s market. It was good experience but I do not the think the market works in a manner that is profitable to the farmers who rely entirely on this income. A lot of produce also goes to waste. There are obviously other problems that are political and that is a subject I have very little knowledge about.
During the time I was selling at the market I experienced some of these problems:
- There is no way for the farmers to know before going to the market the prices that their goods might get at the market. It is a daily gamble that the farmers make.
- Most small scale farmers, farm by season. So the market will get an oversupply of say tomatoes which then drives down the price.
- Lack of storage- there is no way for most small scale farmers to store their harvested vegetables at the market if they are unable to sell them right away. This usually means the farmers will not be able to break even and sometimes have to throw away their goods as they would have to pay to transport the vegetables back to their homes.
- Lack of diversification in vegetables grown by most of the farmers. Most farmers will have the same type of crop at the same time so then you will have an oversupply of tomatoes one month and then have a shortage the next month.
- Limited markets-The easiest places to sell your vegetables are big cities like Harare, Bulawayo or Gweru. All the farmers try to sell in these cities and yet the small towns will be struggling to find food.
Of course it is easy to list the problems. I have come up with solutions that I think someone could make into a business. Every business should exist to solve a problem. So here are my solutions:
- An app that shows what the produce is selling at the different markets. Overtime the data would reveal patterns on the best times you sell certain crops. Kind of like what happens with the stock market.
- Encourage farmers to use such technologies like Greenhouses especially in the winter months.
- Have a business that offers refrigeration facilities at the market like in Mbare. If a farmer can not sell the produce, they would then pay to store it here until they are able to sell them.
- Farmers could try and grow other vegetables that are not popular in the Zimbabwean diet and export them. (I am pretty sure some farmers do this already but remember I am thinking out loud!)
- Have a business that buys directly from farmers and sells the produce in smaller cities.
- A food preservation business. Of course there are other companies that already do this but I am not sure there are any that take produce from small scale farmers. A tomato canning business should do really well.
Obviously my lists are not exhaustive but it is what I came up with. You may be looking for a business idea these are some that you can think about. Let me know what else you think could be done.