A survey of marketing mix practices applied by small holder horticulture farmers : a case of selected farmers in Manyatta Division, Embu District
Horticulture is an important component of agricultural sector in Kenya and it has grown considerably despite the general decline in performance of most of other sub sectors. It has received a great deal of attention from researchers, government and donors The purpose of the study was to explore the marketing practices smallholder horticulture farmers' use. This will find out how they use the marketing mix variables because farmers often complain of lack of market and exploitation by middlemen even when there is demand for their produce. The target population of interest in this study consisted of 85 smallholder horticultural farmers from Manyatta Division Embu District who were selected through stratified random sampling. Sampling frame was obtained fro DAEO,s office Manyatta division There were two strata of the farmers (those belonging to marketing groups and non-group based). Both primary and secondary data were collected.. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics with the help of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Descriptive tools were used in actual analysis and data presented in form of charts, tables and percentages. The study established that the small holder farmers grew a variety of crops which they sold locally and few exported. The choice of the crops was based on the demand of the buyers, financial resources, profitability, government policy and availability of labour. In addition, the findings suggested that there are crops that the farmers did not grow but marketed. Smallholder farmers packed their products for the market in sacks, cartons crates and paper bags. Prevalent methods of attracting buyers were word of mouth, usage of posters and leaflets, events and contests respectively, while others used seminars and workshops. They considered the following factors in their choice of promotional tools to use; cost of the tools, speed, and availability while some of the respondents cited reach to buyers. Source of the customers was the neighborhood, Nairobi, Embu Town while others came from other towns. The study also established that the produce reached the customers (buyers) by being transported by the buyers at their own cost and the buyer collected the produce from the farm respectively, while others indicated that they transported the produce to the buyer at the buyer's cost. The farmers mainly collected marketing information themselves. Smallholder farmers sought market information annually and seasonally on competition, customer needs, and price while others collected information on new markets. The produce prices were determined by the total cost and adding a profit margin . Farmers gave discount to their customers depending on volumes bought. The farmers identified lack of marketing information on prices and market opportunities, broker's exploitation, competition, low prices and lack of transport in the market as the main constraints they face. The study recommends that there is need to have positive word of mouth, introduce other forms of promotion and seek extension support. The study recommends the following for further research: efficiency of marketing practices applied by small holder horticultural farmers, research on the number of farmers, hecterage and production required for a marketing group to b economically viable, research on the market practices used by large scale horticultural farmers and similar study can be carried out in other provinces in Kenya to compare the findings.