Agricultural production can only be really efficient if the accompanying marketing and post-harvest systems are also efficient. Well-functioning marketing systems are thus essential to develop production, so increasing farmers' incomes and promoting food security. Extension workers can play an important role in ensuring that the marketing systems work to the benefit of farmers and consumers.
Past FAO work in the field of agricultural marketing extension has concentrated on horticultural marketing. This is because until recently the marketing and storage of the major grain crops in most African countries tended to be in the hands of government agencies. Farmers simply delivered their maize to the marketing board or cooperative and, sooner or later, they were paid. They encountered relatively few problems in marketing their crops and, as a consequence, there was little need for those extension workers who served farmers in grain-producing areas to know much about marketing.
The situation is now changing. Countries in Eastern and Southern Africa are gradually moving to a system where private traders buy crops from farmers, transport those crops to the cities and sell them to processors, millers and consumers. These changes mean that extension workers will have to develop new skills. They will have to be in a position to advise farmers on what crops to grow, on how and where to sell their crops and on how to store their crops. They will need to be able to answer farmers' questions about prices, about whether to store their crops or sell immediately and about where to buy and how to pay for inputs such as fertilizer and seed.
Although this Guide was developed with the liberalized or liberalizing marketing systems of Eastern and Southern Africa in mind, many of the points it makes are likely to be just as valuable to extension workers in other parts of Africa or, indeed, outside Africa. It provides extension workers with basic information on private-sector grain marketing systems and on crop drying and storage. Emphasis is on maize, but other crops are briefly considered.