In Summary
  • From using social media platforms to car-boot sales, there are various methods you can use to sell your produce amid tough measures to curb spread of the disease.
  • Effective social media use is about ‘shouting loud’ to potenial clients by posting appealing photos of your products. For instance, if selling capsicum or tomatoes, take the best photos of your clean products.
  • Online marketing channels give you more room to comply with the safety measure on social distancing since there is minimal physical contact with buyers as you sell from the comfort of your home and observe curfew time.
  • Direct sale at farm gate: Initially, most producers relied on supplying schools with a substantial amount of farm produce but with the learning institutions closed, it leaves them with a lot of produce with few buyers.

Marketing agricultural produce has become a little tougher following the closure of open-air markets and restrictions on the movement of people to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Some food producers are, therefore, finding it harder not only to sell their products but also to do so at a sensible price.

Well, you need to make lemonade out of this situation by adopting alternative marketing channels to ensure you make some money despite the tough conditions.

Besides, demand for food has doubled as most people stay at home. Here are the different marketing methods you can use to sell your produce amid this health crisis.

Online marketing

Kenya has some 40 million internet subscribers, according to the latest data from the Communications Authority. This number is significant because it means you can market your produce to these people if you choose to use digital channels. They include:

Social media: This has opened a sustainable, faster and cheaper marketing channel for businesses, including farmers.

Through applications like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, the giant social networking sites allow you to target your posts to particular people, meaning you have some control to determine who sees your products and from where.

Effective social media use is about ‘shouting loud’ to potential clients by posting appealing photos of your products. For instance, if selling capsicum or tomatoes, take the best photos of your clean products.

This will help you capture the attention of people searching for what you are selling. One fact about social media is that it is run by the youth and there are people in there called influencers.

You can partner with the influencers to help market your produce if grown on a large-scale.

For WhatsApp groups, the more you are in the better for you, as you can reach as many people as you can who may request home deliveries as most people are stockpiling.

Beside households, agro-enterprises such as groceries, milk ATMs and food outlets are among outlets you can also target and sell your produce via social media.

Personal websites: These are the other effective internet marketing avenues in which you can target staff from providers of essential service sectors like hospitals following the closure or partial shutdown of food joints and restaurants.

Ensure you provide information about what you sell, your farm and how you grow your food to interest clients and give contact so that they can find you easily.

E-commerce sites: These are another viable option given the fast-changing market trends. The websites are slowly becoming the preferred sale-and-buy marketplaces.

You can leverage them by posting an ad for your farm produce. Such sites include M-farm, Farmers Market Kenya, Farmbiz and Mkulima Young.

Online marketing channels give you more room to comply with the safety measure on social distancing since there is minimal physical contact with buyers as you sell from the comfort of your home and observe curfew time.

On the flipside, online marketing requires continuous presence as the contrary can be very frustrating. Those who started early would find it easier this period but starting at this time can mean no sales for some time.

Direct marketing

It remains uncertain on what direction the government may give concerning a possible lockdown. Before that, you have a number of direct physical marketing options.

Local distribution stores: For long enough, most farmers have lost it as they target mega retail outlets like hypermarkets and supermarkets that require sustainable supply.

It is time to develop a supply business relationship with emerging medium-sized outlets that in the long run earn you contracts as you grow with them.

Medium-sized supermarkets and wholesalers, restaurants operating within curfew hours and institutions providing essential services like hospitals are feasible options.

Besides, some of the contracted suppliers to these outlets have run out of stock. This is the time you can make use of an affiliate-marketing strategy where you give the contracted supplier your farm produce and they earn a commission from each sale they make.

Who would say no to a slice of cake? If anything, the contracted supplier would also want to sustain this market.

To ensure compliance with the current guidelines regarding Covid-19, observe social distancing during deliveries and your wash hands frequently given that you’re handling food commodities.

Formal marketing companies: Sectors like dairy and horticulture have fairly developed and organised formal markets.

This has become possible due to the rise of strong medium-sized and large-scale private-sector buyers who have quickly grown to become legitimate players.

They provide a wide avenue for farmers and farm produce suppliers looking to reach consumers. Normally, they collect produce from bulking stations that producers are free to join. All you need to do is to adapt to their collection times and quality parameters for the produce.

Direct sale at farm gate: Initially, most producers relied on supplying schools with a substantial amount of farm produce but with the learning institutions closed, it leaves them with a lot of produce with few buyers.

Well, we have farm walk-in clients such as neighbours, brokers and traders. Even with the efforts to control food sold via informal channels, this group of buyers still contribute to the development of various food value chains.

Furthermore, let’s appreciate that informal businesses are modernising quickly, especially with the development of formal retail outlets such as groceries, milk ATMs and all-food produce shops.

Hence, selling to this group of buyers who supply mainly informal space makes sense for your farm business. To control their entry into your home or farm, put up a shop or perhaps a canopy outside your farm gate.

It gives you a chance of potentially taking in more buyers and sticks to social distancing and curbs movement into the farm. Observe hygiene by erecting a hand-washing station at the gate and encourage cashless transactions.

Car boots/door-to-door sales: Selling farm produce from the car boot has become a common trend, especially in urban areas.

This marketing method makes it possible to survive the ban on congregated farmers’ markets as you are mobile and able to sell at designated points away from markets conveniently.

However, be vigilant when dealing with potential buyers by observing hygiene and social distancing as you work to operate within curfew time.

In addition, observe hygiene in the vehicle, regularly clean and sanitise equipment and packaging materials used for door-to-door deliveries and encourage cashless payments.

Value addition: While highly perishable products have no option but to access the market almost immediately, where applicable embrace value addition for farm produce into long shelf-life products and try innovations you never attempted before.

For example, beehive produce can be processed into long-life products. Refrigeration of farm produce where possible also extends shelf-life pending access to markets.

Opinya is an agriculture specialist based at Egerton University.

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Social media marketing

  1. It involves posting text and image updates and video to drive audience engagement. There is also paid social media advertising.
  2. Marketing on social media without a strategy in mind is like wandering in a forest without a map.
  3. Know your desired outcomes when using social media marketing.
  4. Understand your target audience.
  5. Post regularly and offer valuable information that your ideal customers would want to know.