Middlemen still take a lion’s share!

Though farmers have maximized the use of the mobile phone’s to access market information from various parts of the country via SMS, the middleman still stand’s out and takes a lion’s share.

This was revealed at a recently concluded CELAC knowledge fair, which took place in Luwero district; an event that brought together a number of farmers from various districts who in addition to participating in the various activities, expressed their views about issues that affected them, of which exploitation of middlemen in determining market prices was one of these.

Middlemen are still regarded as exploiters who buy their produce at a lower price and sell at a higher price. Although farmers appreciate the use of mobile phones as gadgets which may perhaps eliminate middlemen as price determinants, farmers still complain that middlemen take advantage of their urgent need for money and cheat them by offering a small fraction of the actual market price for their produce.

With the many problems faced by rural farmers ranging from economic to social problems, dealing with middlemen would not be such a big deal as revealed by a farmer from Sironko district, who is quoted saying “when faced with fees to pay for children returning to school and the ever increasing medical and tax bills, I would rather sell at a lower price than not selling at all”

Other hindrances such as lack of adequate transport to ferry crops from the villages to urban areas where the prices are higher or to any other part of the country where they could fetch a higher price, also contributes to this exploitation by the middlemen.

Contributory to this is the very nature of impassable roads in most rural areas of Uganda. This was expressed by another who could not hide his disgust of the transport system when he said, “having access to a roadside in the village where the transporters collect the produce is another hassle, so how do I take advantage of the good price in a Kampala market when my tomatoes are rotting in my garden? I would rather give them to the middleman who will give me the money instead of losing out completely.” This completely illustrates that rural farmers have no option but to stick to these middlemen for purposes of their survival.

With the assumption that the use of mobile phones as a means of availing market information to farmers, they would be better position negotiate prices for their produce. However such circumstances make them succumb to middlemen who take advantage and buy at very low prices only to sell later or even sometimes instantly at very high prices.

Perhaps the only solution to eliminate middlemen as suggested by farmers would be formation of stronger Farmer’s Associations that will directly deal with farmers’ concerns.

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