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Agricultural Marketing In Jamaica Some Key Issues
From the producer’s point of view, the main advantage of the Itinerant/higgler system is that transactions take place at the farm-gate on cash on delivery basis and all marketing functions are carried out by the Higgler. The main disadvantage lies in the fact that they lack working capital and as a consequence they trade in relatively small quantities. They also lack the marketing infrastructure to efficiently carry out the functions of marketing in order to avoid excessive post harvest losses. In times of good harvests, this system is incapable of handling the bulk of production, and farmers suffer great losses from lack of sale of their produce.

Overall, it can be seen that while the Itinerant/Higgler system provides a means of livelihood for thousands of largely unskilled Jamaicans, it is for the most part an inefficient system as it does not stimulate increases in production whilst constraining consumer demand.

Attempts at improving the marketing system for domestic food crops over the years have included the introduction of a State Marketing Board and a number of group marketing models including Producer Marketing Organizations, Cooperative Societies and Cluster marketing schemes.

For the most part these organizations failed to establish an efficient marketing arrangement and many ceased to operate as soon as the project support was removed. The real problem lies in the composition and nature of the management committee and the staffing of these organizations. The Committee is normally made up of members of the farmers group who are required to serve as volunteers in the management and operations of the organization. In most cases these farmers are resource poor and can ill afford the time to provide voluntary services to the Committee.

Committee members normally expect immediate benefits and will not participate if such benefits are not forthcoming. Accordingly, they do not attend committee meetings to plan and to make important decisions. Additionally, the nominated members of the committee are often of low educational standard, have little or no training and or professional experience in the management of commercial businesses in a competitive environment. Even in cases where a business manager is employed, the organization is still likely to have serious problems because an effective management committee or board of directors is not in place and the organization may become a one man operation and without corporate governance.

The study found that the various models of group marketing organizations as discussed above are, from a technical point of view, applicable and well suited to the local farming systems for domestic food crops generally. However, they all fell down very seriously in areas of corporate governance and day to day management. We believe that the traditional practice of selecting volunteers from among small farmer groups to serve on management committees and to carry out day to day management of the established Producer Marketing Organization (PMOs), Clustrer Groups and to some extent Cooperatives, is a leading cause for the persistent failure of these Groups. There is therefore a need for a paradigm shift in the way management committees and or boards are selected for PMOs, Cooperatives and Clusters.

We propose that in the new Paradigm, the selection process for members of Management Committees, PMOs and or Boards of Cluster groups be governed by a set of Guiding Principles which will include but may not be limited to:
a. The membership of Committee/Boards for farmer groups, should at a minimum, reflect professional qualifications and experience in agriculture, marketing and business management.
b. All Board/Committee members should be compensated in a manner similar to the manner in which Board members are compensated in a normal private sector commercial business entity.
c. The day to day running of the organization should be the responsibility of a manger and staff who are paid competitive salaries.

Conrad V. Smikle
Development Economist
BRAC. Ltd
April 2009
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Posted on 06 Apr 2009 by brac

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