Agricultural marketing covers the services involved in moving an agricultural product from the farm to the consumer. Numerous interconnected activities are involved in doing this, such as planning production, growing and harvesting, grading, packing, transport, storage, agro- and food processing, distribution, advertising and sales. Some definitions would even include “the acts of buying supplies, renting equipment, and paying labor” arguing that marketing is everything a business does. Such activities cannot take place without the exchange of information and are often heavily dependent on the availability of suitable finance.

Marketing systems are dynamic; they are competitive and involve continuous change and improvement. Businesses that have lower costs, are more efficient, and can deliver quality products, are those that prosper. Those that have high costs, fail to adapt to changes in market demand and provide poorer qualities are often forced out of business. Marketing has to be customer oriented and has to provide the farmer, transporter, trader, processor, etc with a profit. This requires those involved in marketing chains to understand buyer requirements, both in terms of product and business conditions.

In Western countries considerable agricultural marketing support to farmers is often provided. In the USA, for example, the USDA operates the Agricultural Marketing Service. Support to developing countries with agricultural marketing development is carried out by various donor organizations and there is a trend for countries to develop their own Agricultural Marketing or Agribusiness units, often attached to ministries of agriculture. Activities include market information development, marketing extension, training in marketing and infrastructure development. Since the 1990s trends have seen the growing importance of supermarkets and a growing interest in contract farming, both of which impact significantly on the way in which marketing takes place.


In the United States the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is a division of USDA and has programs for cotton, dairy, fruit and vegetables, livestock and seed, poultry, and tobacco. These programs provide testing, standardization, grading and market news services, and oversee marketing agreements and orders, administer research and promotion programs and purchase commodities for federal food programs. The AMS also enforces certain federal laws. USDA also provided support to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University and to Penn State University. In the United Kingdom, support for marketing of some commodities was provided before and after the 2nd World War by boards such as the Milk Marketing Board, and the Egg Marketing Board, but these were closed down in the 1970s. As a colonial power Britain established marketing boards in many countries, particularly in Africa. Some continue to exist, although many were closed down at the time of the introduction of structural adjustment measures in the 1990s. In recent years, several developing countries have established government-sponsored marketing or agribusiness units. *8) What color is your front door? South Africa, for example, started the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) as a response to the deregulation of the agriculture industry and closure of marketing boards in the country. India has the long-established National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (NIAM). These are primarily research and policy organizations, but other agencies provide facilitating services for marketing channels, such as the provision of infrastructure, market information and documentation support. Examples include the National Agricultural Marketing Development Corporation in Trinidad and Tobago and the New Guyana Marketing Corporation.

Several organizations provide support to developing countries to develop their agricultural marketing systems, including FAO’s agricultural marketing unit and various donor organizations. There has also recently been considerable interest by NGOs to carry out activities to link farmers to markets.