Over the years, I’ve visited and spoken to many emerging farmers about their successes and failures. And it seems to me that many of the successful farmers did well in other enterprises before they ventured into farming. These people, in other words, became farmers already understanding the recipe for making a success in business.
A critical ingredient in this recipe, I believe, is strategic planning. And it is an aspect that’s frequently missing among the many farmers who are struggling. All too often, these farmers focus exclusively on production, concentrating on the everyday challenges of planting, ploughing, harvesting and slaughtering. In the process, they neglect to plan ahead. And the results can be disastrous.
One of the biggest challenges for emerging farmers is access to markets. Many produce large quantities of produce, but struggle to sell it at a profit. In most cases, the reason is that the market is flooded – a fact they would have realised if they had planned properly.
This is particularly true of small-scale poultry farmers, most of whom supply the informal market. So often, these producers raise their chickens, then sit and hope for the best. If the market is not performing well, they suffer huge losses.
Many of these farmers think that a solution to their problems is to form a co-op, then secure funding from government for an abattoir. But even if this facility is funded and built, what then? Is there a market for all those slaughtered chickens?
Put simply, what is the plan?
In addition, setting up an abattoir is extremely expensive, and government funding doesn’t just fall into everyone’s lap. In fact, I’ve never personally come across any co-op that has managed to persuade government to build it such facilities.
Besides, how many abattoirs already exist? Does one really need to own an abattoir to make a go of things?
Clearly not. I know of farmers who pay for slaughtering services at existing abattoirs, supply various outlets, and make a tidy profit. Unfortunately, too many emerging farmers believe they need to be offered solutions instead of coming up with their own. Perhaps they should spend less time ploughing, and more time planning.