Mali´s Agricultural Market Watch
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CTA. 2002. Mali´s Agricultural Market Watch. ICT Update Issue 9. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
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by Niama Demélé Since its creation, officials of the Agricultural Market Watch (OMA) regularly visit 64 local markets across the country to gather information on the prices of crops such as rice and millet, as well as l
With the introduction of Cereal Market Reform Programme in 1981, the Malian government removed price controls and legal restrictions on private sector involvement in the grain market. Whereas in the 1970s grain prices were set by the government, they now vary according to the type, quality and location, and to supply and demand over time. Traders were quick to react to the reforms, and took full advantage of the uncertainty resulting from the reforms. Producers, on the other hand, were unable to bargain effectively for better prices because they had no information on the prices in urban and rural markets. They also had no idea of how market prices were evolving over time. The situation changed dramatically in 1989 with the creation of a market information system - the Observatoire du Marché Agricole (Agricultural Market Watch, OMA). At regular intervals, OMA officials visit 64 local markets across the country to gather information on the prices of crops such as rice and millet, as well as livestock. They enter the data into solar-powered laptop computers and send it by email to one of OMA´s 25 regional offices. There, the information is processed, summarized and submitted to privately owned rural radio stations to be broadcast in French and the local languages. It is estimated that about 70% of Malians, including farmers in the remotest villages, now tune in to the broadcasts, which feature market reports, general advice, weather forecasts, as well as price information. Through OMA, the farmers have access to timely market information that has been invaluable in helping them increase their bargaining power with traders. It has also improved their flexibility, in that they are now able to decide what to produce, and when, where and in what form it is most profitable to sell it. Despite its success, the OMA market information system was not financially sustainable. It was expensive to operate, and fully funded by donor agencies. In 1998, therefore, the government launched the Decentralized Market Information Support Project (Projet d´appui au système décentralisé du marché agricole, PASIDMA), with support from USAID and Michigan State University. The project aims to make OMA more cost-effective, less dependent on donor funds, and ultimately a sustainable commercial entity. Control of OMA was moved from the grain marketing board to the Malian Chambers of Agriculture (Chambres d´Agriculture du Mali), a farmers´ organization that is able to put pressure on the government. In addition, OMA´s operations have been decentralized to ensure that the service remains responsive to the needs of farmers. By 2000, OMA had reduced its operating costs by more than one-third. The government agreed to fund OMA´s operating costs through the national budget, with donors providing equipment and technical assistance. OMA is now allowed to raise its own revenues through commercial activities, including selling specialized market information to consultants and commercial banks. It also advertises produce and livestock during the radio broadcasts, and takes a cut of the sales. By 2001, OMA was able to contribute 10% of its operating budget from its own resources, and the government the remaining 90%. While it still has some way to go, Mali´s market information system could become a model for the rest of West Africa. Indeed, neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso are setting up similar systems and there are plans to link them together. Niama Demélé is project coordinator of http://www.oma.gov.ml PASIDMA, Bamako, Mali.
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