To build an adequate strategy for marketing basic grains that includes incorporating small- and medium-scale farmers into the market, it is important to consider aspects such as sustainable production and farm organization and the information farmers may have on these subjects. But how can we help farmers organize themselves, plan their work, determine their group requirements, and access timely information for strategic decision making? How much additional value does a supplier or group of suppliers that are efficient, sustainable, and reliable bring to agro-industries or other grain buyers? To answer these and other questions, the MasAgro program organized its first forum on grain marketing titled “Towards Inclusive and Sustainable Grain Marketing” at CIMMYT headquarters on 9 November.
Víctor López Saavedra, leader of MasAgro Productor, welcomed the participants and highlighted the impacts that the MasAgro initiative has had up to now in Mexican farmers’ fields. He also said that the concept of inclusive and sustainable commercial relations is at the core of MasAgro’s interventions in the area of marketing. The event included three panels that provided a space for representatives of the different sectors involved in maize production systems and grain marketing to exchange knowledge and experiences.
The first panel titled “Strategies for improving farmers’ market linkages” was led by María del Pilar Alcacio, SDAyR Guanajuato; Mayte Reyes, Consultative Group on Agricultural Marketing -GCMA; and Marco Antonio Cabello, FIRA. This panel discussed adequate strategies for fostering and strengthening the associations among farmers, factors that help them use contract agriculture schemes, as well as the best mechanisms for doing so.
The second panel, “Market opportunities for grain production systems based on sustainable production intensification,” highlighted the advantages of sustainable production and smart information access and use as ways of linking farmers to markets. Adolfo Ruiz, agricultural operations manager at PepsiCo, and Greta Villaseñor, executive director of the Business Council of the Maize Industry and Derivatives, talked about the concrete opportunities that their businesses provide for including small- and medium-scale farmers in their supply chains. Other panel participants were Vinicio Montiel, producer from the Farmer Association of Río Fuerte Sur-AARFS AC, and Roberto Rendón, academic from the University of Chapingo-CIESTAAM.
The third panel presented cases of farmers who had successfully linked up with markets. Invited farmers shared their experiences and marketing organization strategies, as well as the challenges they faced when seeking new marketing channels. Farmers who took part in this panel were Enrique Abadía, from the Innovative Farmers Group of Espinal, state of Morelos; Marcelino Vázquez Ramírez, lead farmer of Agro-productores Dobladenses SPR, and Urbano Godoy, barley producer from the state of Hidalgo. The panel discussion was closed by Amado Ramírez Leyva from Itanoní, who described how native maize landraces can become market niches.
To wrap up the event, Bram Govaerts, leader of Sustainable Intensification for Latin America, summarized the conclusions reached, which were regarded as recommendations to follow. It was agreed that since adoption of sustainable technologies directly affects the quality and competitiveness of farm production, it is absolutely essential to promote it. The need to strengthen the association among farmers and stimulate their market linkages, and to focus more public and private resources on improving the impact on key actors was mentioned. It was also noted that although large-scale marketing is necessary, it is not the only possible solution: local marketing can also be a desirable and successful strategy.
It is expected that concrete tools that foster environments that favor incorporating farmers into the market and establishing more inclusive and sustainable linkages will continue to be disseminated through this type of fora. This first forum was a definite step towards achieving this goal.