Notes to broadcasters on sweet potatoes and market trends

    | December 15, 2013

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    The farmer featured in this week’s story made an advantageous discovery when she learned that sweet potatoes, a crop that she had been growing for her own use, were a valuable commodity to crisp vendors. Since she already knew how to grow sweet potato, she was able to take advantage of demand for the crop by devoting more of her fields to it. At the same time, she continues to grow maize and cassava, which keeps her fields diversified and helps protect her food and income security.

    Farmers are sometimes presented with the opportunity to grow a new crop which promises to bring in good cash. As happened in this week’s story, it could be a local business seeking raw materials for a product that is growing in popularity. It could be a crop that other local families enjoy, but cannot grow themselves. Or it could be a large company seeking outgrowers. In all such cases, farmers have important decisions to make about whether they should invest their efforts and land in new crops.

    Here are some ideas for a radio program related to crop choices and marketing trends:
    -Visit a local market and look for farmers and/or vendors selling an agricultural product that is unusual or trendy. Interview the farmer/vendor about her/his choice to grow or sell the crop, and what the market has been like. While you’re there, interview people who are purchasing the product, and ask them why they enjoy it. If the vendor is not the person who grew the crop, ask the vendor how you can get in touch with one or more of the farmers who supplies her/him to talk about their experiences.

    -Host a call-in show inviting farmers to share their experiences with trying new crops, particularly in response to market trends. Ask those who found success with a new crop or with expanding an existing crop in response to increased demand what factors they feel led to their success. Ask those who were less successful (for example, farmers who found it very challenging to grow the crop or who did not receive the market price they expected), what advice they have for farmers facing similar decisions.

    The Farm Radio International script Sweet potatoes in Uganda looks at how this crop has changed the lives of farmers in eastern Uganda. It includes an interview with the head of a farmers’ group who explains how they choose which sweet potato varieties to grow and which sweet potato products to sell. Find it here:

    Here are some other Farm Radio International scripts and FRW stories about potatoes and sweet potatoes:
    Sawdust prolongs the storage life of potatoes (Package 90, April 2010):
    Mr. or Mrs. Potato of the Year! (Package 86, December 2008):
    Research in Rwanda aims for a good harvest of sweet potatoes (Package 86, December 2008):
    Orange sweet potatoes (Package 86, December 2008):
    -“Madagascar: Farmers grow potatoes to fill the rice gap” (FRW #232, January 2013):
    -“Zimbabwe: Potato farming offers hope to HIV positive farmer” (FRW #227, December 2012):