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Farmers urged to change to ‘grow to sell’

Farmers from Gravelotte, Selwane and Prieska (GRASP) were urged to refrain from ‘grow and sell’, but rather ‘grow to sell’.

The farmers attended an information day on marketing organised by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) through its Cooperative Enterprise Development (CED) directorate in Selwane. Established in 2015, GRASP is a group of black-owned cooperatives residing in the Ba-Phalaborwa Local Municipality that have come together to form a secondary cooperative. Apart from trading their products locally, GRASP also markets their produce at the Tshwane and Johannesburg fresh produce markets as well as at local retail stores.

During the information day, farmers were encouraged to do proper research before commencing their farming activities. “Farmers must conduct research on the type of soil to plant on, understand the importance of crop production planning, the type of product to produce, identify the need and demand of the product in the market they are targeting (understanding market requirements), and understand off-season production,” the farmers were told.

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Understanding all the requirements could make it simple for GRASP farmers, who are currently producing a wide variety of crops including cabbage, spinach, okra, tomatoes, green paper, butternut, citrus and mangos, to have their produce easily accepted at big retailers. “Growing to sell than grow and sell concept is in line with the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP) model, a programme initiated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that encourages farmers to undertake market research of what they intend to produce before commencing with their farming operations.”

The SHEP model ensures that smallholder farmers are market-oriented. “However, the services of extension officers, which are the bridge between government and farming communities, should link with marketing entities such as the National Marketing Council and research institutions in collaboration with farmers and agri-businesses to understand the needs of the market at the local level before any production activity takes place.

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SHEP focusses on sensitisation and baseline survey, market survey, in-field training, and end line survey,” farmers heard. Since its formation, GRASP has benefitted from DALRRD through the support of mechanisation, production inputs and non-financial interventions such as training and market access awareness campaigns thus contributing to the department’s mandate of improving agricultural production to stimulate economic development and food security.

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