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4.6 Marketing consideration in the promotion and development of sundried products

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- H.F. CREUPELANDT

 

BACKGROUND

The products with which this Paper will be dealing are fruits: vegetables, spices, herbs and tubers which' when listed, number well over seventy varieties in Africa. These products, though being secondary foods, are nevertheless often considered essential foods and are a major source of vitamins as well as minerals. Spices and herbs are flavour enhancers consumed mainly with staple foods in order to make the bland food more tasty. In addition, spices and herbs are sometimes consumed for their medicinal properties.

The process of sundrying removes water from the product and this is one of the lowest-cost preservation methods. Preserving the product through sundrying reduces the inherent product perishability and thereby reduces produce losses. The availability of the product, which is normally seasonal in its fresh form, is also able to be extended. Processing of the product can also reduce seasonal gluts, thereby facilitating more stable prices when fresh produce is removed from the market for dehydration. Other benefits from dehydration are that it facilitates the transport of produce making the product lighter' and also less susceptible to damage when the products have to travel over long distances on bad roads. Sundrying often permits easier and cheaper handling of produce.

Sundrying is also required in certain cases to prepare produce for consumption, such as many spices and herbs which are often suitable for use only in their dried form.

Sundrying or dehydration of products in many developing countries _ is often characterized by a low level of technology with techniques in common use generally producing a product of poor quality. Production expansion and the development of markets for sundried produce will depend on improving technology, allowing better quality and more hygienic products to be produced, the consumers' response in terms of willingness to pay better prices for higher quality produce and the overall profitability for shone involved in the production and drying process.

Another important point when considering products and their marketing is that the dried product will only be as good as the quality of the raw material used in the process. Poor quality raw materials will only produce poor quality dried produce; often, increased production of sundried produce to satisfy market requirements will need to be based on suitable raw material at least in terms of its relative freshness and absence of deterioration. Another factor which affects the quality of sundried produce is the packaging of the final product.

Inadequate packing, allowing the product to become adulterated or affected by dirt, water, etc., will render the product virtually unacceptable for sale. Furthermore, good packaging is required in order to safeguard the quality of the product, especially in the case of herbs and apices, where the flavour and aroma of the product needs to be protected' if it is to be sold.

 

MARKETING CONSIDERATIONS

This paper basically concerns itself with the small scale sundrying of produce, essentially vegetables, which will be developed to meet the needs of local, rural and urban populations. Large scale dehydration of produce or the export marketing of produce are not considered in any detail as they are beyond the scope of this Expert Consultation.

The market for sundried products which are already known and accepted is generally an increasing one. Urban populations in most Third World countries are rapidly increasing with many cities registering population increases of over 15% per annum. The largest part of the increasing population comprises low income consumers who will provide a growing market for sundried produce which they are acquainted with from their earlier homes in the rural areas. Furthermore, the diets of most low income families in the rapidly expanding cities generally comprise bland carbohydrates which need to be made more palatable and varied by the introductions of spices or herbs. However, it should be realized that the existing market mostly for low quality and low price products processed by rudimentary sundrying techniques from unsold fresh market left-overs. This consideration implies that the launching of a solar drying undertaking using better but often also more costly raw material will have to be preceded for each product by market acceptability tests and a serious analysis of the related cost-return implications to producers and market operators.

In considering the organization and scope of production for potential solar drying enterprises and the main marketing considerations associated with the different levels' four levels of organization can be identified:

Firstly, very small-scale or household level production and processing where the need is to improve basic processing techniques and work needs to be done on improving the quality and packaging of surplus production together with investigating possibilities of expanding the range of products handled and to improve their access to markets of those producers.

Secondly, village level or small scale production whereby village associations or co-operatives act as processors of individual householders' production perhaps using larger scale improved technology or possibly acting as marketing centres providing the services of bulking' packing' transporting and marketing sun dried produce on behalf of individual farmers.

Thirdly, medium-scale enterprises adopting improved and perhaps larger equipment which will receive their raw materials from a number of villages. These medium-scale industries might be able to produce better products through using better equipment or purely by organizing their plants more efficiently. Access to markets for these larger plants' dealing with larger volumes, is often easier than for the smaller processing units in that the larger units are able to undertake better product preparation' packaging and transport' and can assemble lots of suitable sizes required to enter the wholesale trade. Problems of adequate raw material supply are' however' often encountered.

Fourthly, there are the larger industrial units which generally do not utilize solar energy but generally rely on manufactured sources of energy. These plants are however not considered in this Paper, as mentioned earlier.

In discussing the scale of processing it should be noted that? as plants become larger, the need for production discipline and production planning to meet the requirements of these larger plants will become more apparent. Problems of available produce volumes, varieties, seasonality of production, etc., have to be tackled with due consideration being given to the overall level of produce supplies as farmers will always give first priority to supplying the higher price fresh market, rather than the less remunerative processing market. When produce is contracted for processing, it often finds its way onto the fresh market, when produce availability is inadequate to meet fresh market demand.

 

MARKET DEVELOPMENT AND EXPANSION

In planning the marketing of increased quantities of processed products it is convenient to divide the products into existing products are new products. In identifying or improving markets for existing products (i.e. products already handled) one has to undertake market research covering the following aspects:

Once this information has been gathered it will allow the planner to identify supply gaps, the planning of supplies to markets where or during periods when prices are highest and will provide the basis for improving product quality and packaging in order to meet existing and potential market demand.

Where enterprises are dealing or plan to deal with new products, i.e. products not previously handled, quite extensive research to obtain information on whether the products are currently available in the market at any time or in any form and from any sources, is required. However, even if the product that is planned to be handled is already known in the market, market acceptability tests are recommended, particularly if quality, presentation and price differences have to be sorted out.

Due attention must be given to consumer preference and to the fixing of prices at realistic levels. If sun-dried produce is priced too highly, the consumers have the option to switch to substitute products of fresh products.

Market research and consumer acceptance testing as suggested above should be undertaken at the initiation or expansion of processing for either existing or new products. A marketing plan for the products should then be drawn up indicating tines

In the main, the products that will be considered by farmers, cooperatives and private entrepreneurs for processing will already be known to the consumers but product quality and availability (supply) are often uncerain and market requirements are not being met. There is often a need to improve the availability of the products by better production planning which will necessitate provision of storage for the processed products where raw materials are only available seasonally. Where raw materials are available throughout the year, then the arrangement a of adequate and continuous supplies to meet market demand will not require storage but better production planning. In addition to improving the availability (supply) of processed products to the market as a means of satisfying market demand and providing producers with additional incomes there is often a need to improve product quality and packaging to gain greater consumer acceptability. This is especially the case where the aim is to expand market penetration by catering to the requirements of higherincome consumers.

Another area of market development that can be considered, is meeting the requirements of institutional consumers (schools, hotels, hospitals, etc.) for sun-dried products. Here one has to concentrate on providing a product of good quality in reasonable quantities, at a reasonable price (taking account of the prices for fresh products). Regularity of supply and consistency of quality are important factors in meeting the needs of this market.

 

GOVERNMENT FACILITATING SERVICES FOR MARKET DEVELOPMENT

In the main the operation of small and medium-scale solar drying plants will be undertaken by private entrepreneurs. The Government can assist private entrepreneurs in adopting better techniques and in securing the necessary equipment through implementing small enterprise development programmes. These programmes could inform private entrepreneurs or groups of the availability of suitable technology and perhaps could provide the necessary facilities to establish and to provide initial operating capital for the proposed processing unite.

The Home Economics Services of many countries could promote the increased consumption of sundrier produce and could introduce new products into peoples dicta by devising, publishing and distributing recipes which include the use of more and possibly new types of sundried produce. Nutrition education programmes might also encourage increased consumption of dried produce by emphasizing the vitamin and mineral composition of many sundried products.

In those countries that have Government marketing extension personnel these officers could advise farmers and co-operatives on the introduction of better handling, packing and transport techniques and could advise on ways and means of increasing or diversifying the production and marketing of sundried products.


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