Update by Sarah Mayanja
Sweetpotato markets in Tanzania and elsewhere in East Africa are constrained by the bulky and perishable nature of the crop, high transport costs, inadequate storage facilities, limited market intelligence services, and limited processing facilities. The most common trade channels are characterized by low-volume sales by women in rural markets, though urban trading is growing in significance. Nonetheless, markets offer an opportunity for growth and income generation for farmers; and increased availability of the nutritious orange fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) for urban and peri-urban consumers.
To support market entry of the 30 budding sweetpotato seed and root entrepreneurs targeted by the Viable Sweetpotato Technologies in Africa (VISTA-Tanzania) project, a rapid market assessment study was conducted in 14 markets in the seven districts of intervention to determine the commercial potential of OFSP.
- The most common source of fresh roots in large markets was the Songea region.
- Some 89% of the traders obtained their sweetpotato supplies directly from farmers.
- Women formed 77% of the retail and 63% of the wholesale traders.
- White-fleshed varieties where the most traded while OFSP were the least traded.
- 61% of the consumers were not aware of OFSP, but demand was increasing.
- Root size, skin color, flesh color and price were important purchase factors.
Though findings indicated that the volumes of sweetpotato traded by individual traders were low, their cumulative amounts were substantial and a significant contribution to agricultural trade in the regions. Female traders were seen as crucial to the trade despite the small volumes they handled. Their frequent sweetpotato purchases ensured consistent availability of the crop in the market.
Amongst the barriers to sweetpotato trade that new entrants were likely to face were taxes, inadequate knowledge on the trends and varieties on demand, ensuring consistent supply of sweetpotato for clients, and lack of ability to engage in off-season trade in the crop, which was bound to be more lucrative.
OFSP trade was identified as a lucrative option for the project supported commercial farmers; but their engagement would benefit from assistance in preparation of production and marketing plans, building business partnerships and networks, and engaging actively in sweetpotato multi-stakeholder platforms in their areas of operation.