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Abstract

Improving market access for small-holder farmers is important in helping towards raising rural incomes and reducing poverty. The Millennium development goal number one is to eradicate poverty. Most of the poor are small scale farmers in rural areas of Africa and Asia. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) anticipates that improving access to market for these farmers will help towards reducing poverty. Small scale farmers in developing countries are excluded from markets due to long value chains, lack of transparency, and presence of too many players. Mangoes are produced in the Eastern and Coastal areas in Kenya. Farmers in the Makueni have taken up mango farming quickly, making Makueni the leading producer of mangoes in Kenya. Marketing is however not organized. Despite the presence of several mango buyers in the country, mango farmers are experiencing up to 30 percent post-harvest losses, and gross margins are low at Kshs. 1.70 per piece. Profit should guide farmers’ choice of market channel, yet this is often not the case, it is not clear what drives farmer decision of the channel to sell to. There is no study that has actually been carried out to determine the factors that influence farmers’ decision to participate in the available market channels; this is the literature gap that this study sought to fill. The aim of this study was to assess the factors that influence mango farmers’ choice of market channels in Makueni County. The study used data collected in 2014 from a sample of 227 farmers using multistage and random sampling techniques. Analysis of Variance was used to determine the difference in the prices offered by the different channels, while Multinomial logit model was used to quantify the factors affecting channel choice. Results of the study show that farmers sold to three major channels, which are brokers, exporters, and direct market. Majority of the farmers (58 percent) sold to brokers, 30 percent to export, while the rest sold to direct market. Price analysis results show that farmers selling to direct channel earned the highest average prices, while brokers offered the lowest prices. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) results find sufficient evidence that prices offered by the channels are different. The multinomial logit results show that farmers who were members of producer marketing groups, had attended training, and had a large number of mango trees were more likely to sell to exporters relative to brokers. In addition, farmers who owned a vehicle, were closer to the tarmac road, and had access to market information were more likely to sell to direct market relative to brokers. Results of this study provide insights for the ongoing efforts to transform agriculture from subsistence to market oriented activity for farmers in Kenya. There is need to assist farmers link with organized and formal markets to bolster their incomes. The study recommends that interventions aimed at providing market information, as well as training and extension to farmers should be reinforced. Producer marketing groups can fill the gaps left by marketing boards through linking farmers with buyers, and assisting farmers attain quality and safety requirements of especially export market. These quality and safety requirements are a major impediment to access to niche markets. In addition, it is more effective and cheaper to offer training and extension services to farmers through the groups. The study recommends further research on the marketing side, to determine the constraints and challenges faced by marketers would also be beneficial for policy and/or practice.

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