Selling for maximum profit

In my career working with farmers in different areas, I have seen how farmers end up getting the thin end of the stick when marketing their products.

In Zimbabwe in particular, farmers are the ones who lose in the value chain. The major reason is that the value chain from producer to final consumer can be very long. You get too many middlemen in between, and these tend to eat into the farmer’s profits.

When middlemen are harmful

As a farmer, you need to know when middlemen are useful and when they are not. When I was an extension worker in Mash West in the mid 2000s, there was a thriving business of buying and selling cattle. Cattle buyers were essentially middlemen who took the risks and paid transport  and costs of moving the animals from rural areas to urban markets. Middlemen are certainly useful, but they can be very exploitative. Farmers can prevent exploitation by taking a number of measures.


As a first observation, the ideal is always to sell to an abattoir or open market.

However one way in which farmers can by-pass middlemen is to organise themselves, and organise cattle markets. They will then be able to attract more buyers, ensuring more competition. Extension workers could certainly help with this, especially the marketing/promotion and logistical organisation.

Alternatively, if the animals are a reasonable number, they can get in touch with abattoirs direct, who may be willing to use their transport to collect the animals, at better rates for both parties.

Be well informed!

You always need to know the open market going rates of the product you are selling. This may mean how much beef is being bought per kg at the big abattoirs. This gives you a standard for comparison.

Know the weights! How much does your animal weigh? How does that translate to meat? What is the dressing out % of an animal in this kind of condition?

Pyramid schemes

Pyramid schemes are where you are required to pay money in return for fantastic future returns. Most of these pyramid schemes work in a fairly recognisable pattern: you are offered very high returns from your investment, in return for buying breeding stock, training or some such things. Of course the returns never materialise, or they materialise to only a few “promotional” individuals who give positive testimonies.

And in most schemes, you are required to grow some fairly new crop/livestock for a niche market. The scammers are posh-looking, suave, educated and convincing. They look and sound the part.

How to spot pyramids

1. Anything that sounds too good to be true, be careful. Money does not grow on trees.

2. Seeing is believing- many of these schemes depend on glossy pictures. Demand to see things on the ground, and you start getting all kinds of excuses.

3. You always have to pay first. Always. No “trial” runs: pay up first.

4. You know you are scammed when your texts are no longer returned; you visit offices only to be told they moved a week ago.

I know people believe in luck and fortune and all that. Forget it. Work hard. Do your projects in a proper way. Look hard for markets. Find ways of linking up with urban markets. Take the trip to town and talk to people. Don’t be afraid: they are only human beings.

And lastly, never deliver your products without being paid, unless it is a long-standing trusted relationship.

Till next time. Follow us for regular updates.

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