Small-scale mango farmers, transaction costs and changing agro-food markets: evidence from Vhembe and Mopani districts, Limpopo Province
Aphane, Mogau Marvin
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The main objective of this study was to identify ways in which transaction costs can be lowered to improve small-scale farmers’ participation in and returns from agricultural output markets, with specific reference to small-scale mango farmers in Limpopo province. This study hypothesizes that transaction costs are lower in informal spot markets and increase when small-scale farmers sell in more structured markets (formal markets). This study builds on transaction cost economics (TCE) to demonstrate how to overcome transaction cost barriers that small-scale mango farmers face in the agro-food markets. The approach to collect primary information was sequenced in two steps: first, key informant and focus group interviews were conducted and, secondly, a structured survey instrument was administered in two districts of Limpopo. A total of 235 smallscale mango farmers were interviewed. A binary logistic regression model was used to estimate the impact of transaction costs on the likelihood of households’ participation in formal (=1) and informal (=0) agro-food markets. STATA Version 10 was used to analyse the data. This study found that a larger proportion of male than female farming households reported participation in the formal markets, suggesting deep-seated gender differentiation in market participation. The average age of small farmers participating in formal markets is 52, compared to 44 for those in informal markets, implying that older farmers might have established stronger networks and acquired experience over a longer period. Farmers staying very far from the densely populated towns (more than 50 km) participate less in the formal markets than those staying closer (0 – 25 km and 26 – 49 km), which implies that the further they are from the towns, the less the likelihood of farmers selling in the formal markets. Farmers who own storage facilities and a bakkie (transportation means) participate more in formal markets compared to those who do not own these assets, which suggests that these farmers are able to store mangoes, retaining their freshness and subsequently delivering them to various agro-food markets on time. Households that participate in formal markets have high mean values of income and social grants. However, this study found that the likelihood of a household’s participation in the markets is less as income and social grants increase. This suggests that households do not invest their financial assets in order to overcome market access barriers. A large proportion of households that own larger pieces of arable land participate in the formal markets, which implies that they are able to produce marketable surplus. Households that have a high mean value (in Rand) of cattle participate more in formal markets than in informal markets. However, this study found that the likelihood of a household’s participation in the markets does not change with an increase in the value of its livestock. These findings suggest that households do not sell their cattle in order to overcome market access barriers. Reduced transaction costs for small-scale mango farmers in Limpopo should improve their participation in and returns from the agro-food markets. Policy interventions to support this need to focus on: access to storage and transportation facilities, enforcement of gender equity requirements in existing policies, and better access to information about markets.