Price negotiations with a vendor of corn seeds.
Photo: FAO/G. Napolitano


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Market liberalisation in the 1980/90s brought about fundamental changes to marketing structures in Africa, creating new opportunities but also, often, making it more difficult for smallholders to access markets.

Prior to the late 1970s to early 1980s, the state dominated agricultural marketing systems in most African countries. State-owned grain marketing companies were the main channels through which grains were marketed. Co-operatives were promoted as intermediaries in the marketing chain, distributing inputs, bulking produce and marketing to the parastatal marketing boards. The state owned storage infrastructure and facilities for assembling produce in very remote locations. Pan-territorial and pan-seasonal pricing policies were adopted, often with little or no regard for significant differences in the cost of assembling produce from different regions. Formal grades and standards were enforced at farmgate (by the co-operatives) and other levels in the state-controlled marketing system, in most cases with state-owned milling companies dominating the formal end-user segment of the chain.

The state-controlled marketing systems offered some level of certainty with regard to output marketing channels, producer prices (often announced prior to the harvest), and grain quality.

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