Know where you're going
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CTA. 2001. Know where you're going. Spore 96. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46378
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore96.pdf
The road to a sustainable agricultural market information service (AMIS) is not necessarily very long but it is full of many steps. It is also full of many temptations which can cause its collapse. Experience in establishing and running an AMIS is...
The road to a sustainable agricultural market information service (AMIS) is not necessarily very long but it is full of many steps. It is also full of many temptations which can cause its collapse. Experience in establishing and running an AMIS is comparatively limited. Most AMISs have been launched, usually in a hurry (see the article Mr Two Percent in this Spore), in the last two decades. What are the issues to be considered before making any plans? There are several definitions of an AMIS; the safest and surest came from the FAO in 1995: 'a service, usually operated by the public sector [that has changed in the last six years!], which involves the collection of information on prices and, in some cases, on quantities of widely traded agricultural products from rural markets and wholesale and retail markets. It equally involves the dissemination of this information on a timely and regular basis through various media to farmers, traders, government officials, policymakers and others, including consumers.' A lot of people may come to depends on an effective AMIS. Primarily, it facilitates fair trade and competition for farmers, by improving their bargaining power and lowering transaction costs. By reducing risks and expanding access to information it encourages innovation by farmers (in changing cropping patterns, for example). It can empower the small trader and consumer. It can also provide key data to policy makers on how markets are functioning, and provide timely data for monitoring food security situations. The widest spread of information available on AMIS is on the Agricultural Market Information Virtual Library, www. aec.msu.edu/agecon/fs2/market_ information.htm. This gives access to a fine set of documents, and selected Websites presented by region (including Africa, from Mali to Mozambique), by commodity, on market analysis and on e-commerce. The Library is run by J-C Le Vallée, Department of Agricultural Economics, Department of Economics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Department s Working paper number 64, Market Information Sources Available Through the Internet: Daily to Yearly Market and Outlook Reports, Prices, Commodities and Quotes, updated in July 2001, is a valuable addition. Correspondence is welcome in French, Spanish and English. But is it yours to do? An AMIS today has several characteristics: it must provide reliable data, with the precision of a proper statistics service; it must operate as a viable business, with the disciplines of the profit and loss account, and the balance sheet; it must communicate with people with low levels of literacy, and sometimes little experience in trading; it must motivate users with extra services all within the profit margin. Statisticians, farmers, traders, processors, exporters, communicators, bank managers, businesswoman or businessman some of the skills of each of them are needed in an AMIS. A few rules to follow: Know the products and markets: at the outset, it is important to restrict the range of crops and produce covered to those traded in major markets in the country. Each additional commodity means more data collection and processing, and more communication. It may be far better to cover only six crops and 75% of the market than twenty-six crops and 90%! Similarly, keep your horizons low: cover the local regions first before trying to cover the national market, let alone the markets of neighbouring countries or even other continents. Know the data: the core of an AMIS is up-to-date data and proper data collection is essential. It may be more appropriate to acquire data from outside agencies, on a contract basis, than to organise data collection by the AMIS itself. It requires trained data collectors, who may be found in national statistics services, although these may operate at a different pace than a business. Organise and move information: market data must be computerised, and great care is required in designing a simple but sturdy programme that can be used at many levels, and quickly repaired if it develops bugs. Data entry must be straightforward; data analysis must allow for following trends in price and supply and demand; data transmission must be fast, reliable and affordable. One well-tested software, FAO-AgriMarket, automates the entry, processing, transmission, reporting and electronic diffusion of market data (mostly prices and quantities of agricultural products and inputs). It is designed for marketing agencies; statistical offices; ministerial departments; local authorities; chambers of commerce and agriculture; trader, producer and consumer associations; import and export companies; research institutions and NGOs. It helps in analysing market data, such as determining movements in price or supply movements over time, or comparing prices and quantities in different markets. The AgriMarket package, on a CD-ROM, is available, only in English, free of charge to public institutions and organizations in developing countries. Other users must pay US$ 25. Email: email@example.com. The producers of AgriMarket have also produced two major documents for AMIS operators and users, which have guided this article. The classic Market Information Services Theory and Practice is available free for download from the Agricultural Marketing Website of FAO: www.fao.org/waicent/ faoinfo/agricult/ags/AGSM/ mis.htm. The printed copy, 54 pages, costs US$ 7.00 from FAO publications, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy as AGS Bulletin 125. Another publication Understanding and Using Market Information is on the same Website and is available in print free from: Marketing and Rural Finance Service, Agricultural Support Systems Division, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. Fax: +39 06 5705 6850/4961