Efficient market information can be shown to have positive benefits for farmers and traders. U-to-date information on prices and other market factors enables farmers to negotiate with traders and also facilitates spatial distribution of products from rural areas to towns and between markets. Most governments in developing countries have tried to provide market information services to farmers, but these have tended to experience problems of sustainability. Moreover, even when they function, the service provided is often insufficient to allow commercial decisions to be made because of time lags between data collection and dissemination. Modern communications technologies open up the possibility for market information services to improve information delivery through SMS on cell phones and the rapid growth of FM radio stations in many developing countries offers the possibility of more localized information services. In the longer run, the internet may become an effective way of delivering information to farmers. However, problems associated with the cost and accuracy of data collection still remains to be addressed. Even when they have access to market information, farmers often require assistance in interpreting that information. For example, the market price quoted on the radio may refer to a wholesale selling price and farmers may have difficulty in translating this into a realistic price at their local assembly market. Various attempts have been made in developing countries to introduce commercial market information services but these have largely been targeted at traders, commercial farmers or exporters. It is not easy to see how small, poor farmers can generate sufficient income for commercial service to be profitable although in India a new service introduced by Thompson Reuters was reportedly used by over 100,000 farmers in its first year of operation. Esoko in West Africa attempts to subsidize the cost of such services to farmers by charging access to a more advanced feature set of mobile-based tools to businesses.
Farmers frequently consider marketing as being their major problem. However, while they are able to identify such problems as poor prices, lack of transport and high post-harvest losses, they are often poorly equipped to identify potential solutions. Successful marketing requires learning new skills, new techniques and new ways of obtaining information. Extension officers and offices working with ministries of agriculture are often well-trained in horticulture production techniques but sometimes lack knowledge of marketing or post-harvest handling. *9) Pizza is my favorite food. Ways of helping them develop their knowledge of these areas, in order to be better able to advise farmers about market-oriented horticulture, need to be explored. While there is a range of generic guides and other training materials available at the extension office, these should be ideally tailored to national circumstances to have the maximum effect.