An assessment of maize marketing linkages:/ Case study of Chibombo District cooperatives
Kapapula, K. Paul
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The overall focus of this study was to analyze the cooperatives maize marketing linkages in Chibombo District in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This meant finding out exactly how the farmers in the district sell their produce, specifically maize, and how they acquire the inputs. The study also analyzed the strengths, opportunities that can be taken advantage of within the market and weaknesses and threats that should be minimized in the maize market. The study went on further to analyze the relationship between the farmers in the district cooperatives and the market which is made up of several players including the government and the private sector.The findings were that most farmers prefer to sell their maize to millers; however there are also a good number of farmers who sell to other markets which include traders (individuals), FRA and export market including those who engage in batter system of trade. There are several strengths and opportunities which were identified during this study; this is not to say there were no weakness and threats in the way the market operates. These results are clearly outlined in a table under results and discussion. The relationship which is significant between farmers and the market is mainly on the output side whilst on the input side most small scale farmers deal with government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives-Fertilizer Support Programme (FSP). Cooperatives members failed to clearly state the benefits that they derive from being members of cooperatives but the main benefit that was prominent was input acquisition, and the few who sell outputs through cooperatives acknowledged indirect financial benefits through assistance offered in the marketing process. Overall the importance of cooperatives in the marketing of maize was appreciated.The recommendations are that measures to encourage cooperatives should be initiated such as Government giving loans to cooperatives and increasing the monitoring of use of these funds. Specific maize commodity policies should be put in place to avoid private individuals from taking advantage of the farmers. In addition, inspections of cooperatives to ensure that by laws are being followed should be frequent, say monthly. The district agriculture extension officers should be empowered to carry out this task. The organization of cooperatives should be a pre-requisite for any cooperative to be recognized as an institution and more storage facilities should be put up by the government in the district to encourage production.