Agriculture is a vast field with numerous value chains, most of which are still struggling to gain popularity with stakeholders in the sector, especially in Africa. Agricultural input business is one of the value chains that is not yet well-developed.
According to an Economic Commission for Africa Southern Africa Office (ECA-SA) report on Agricultural Input Business Development in Africa: Opportunities, Issues and Challenges, “input business…accelerate(s) agricultural productivity, reduce(s) poverty, increase(s) net earnings of producers and suppliers, raise(s) the level of nutrition, and ensure(s) national food self-sufficiency and political stability.”
The report, therefore, noted that, “economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa can be achieved by enhancing the productivity and profitability of agriculture through the development of the agricultural input sector. Massive investments in agricultural inputs in some Asian economies in the 1960s and 1970s have been successful in feeding the growing populations, achieving rapid economic growth and boosting employment generation.”
Going by the above submission, it is safe to posit that agricultural input business or sale of agricultural inputs can be one of the most lucrative and job creating value chains in the sector in the years to come, if approached with the level of seriousness it deserves.
In Nigeria, for instance, there is a lot of concentration on agricultural production with minimal attention being paid to inputs sale as a business. This agriculture sub-sector can take several people off the unemployment market and lift a lot of burdens from the farmer by making access to inputs easier for him/her.
What are agro-inputs?
Agro-inputs are products permitted for use in farming. They range from feedstuffs, fertilisers and permitted plant protection products (e.g. pesticides, herbicides, insecticides), animal care medicines, improved seeds, farm implements or equipment as well as cleaning agents and additives used in food production, among others.
Who is an agro-inputs dealer?
Agro-inputs dealers are people, business organisations and sometimes cooperative societies that engage in the purchase and sale of agricultural inputs. They usually have valid registration certificate or license to carry out this activity as required by the law. They are usually also part of a union that governs activities of dealers.
The agro-inputs dealer can either be a wholesaler or a retailer. The wholesaler buys directly from the manufacturer or sometimes an importer or supplier. They buy in large volume and sell to retailers. The retailer is the one who buys from the wholesaler and is usually in direct contact with farmers and other consumers. The agro-inputs sold fall into various types like fertilisers, pesticides.
Requirements for agro-inputs dealership
Venturing into agro-inputs business will require that an interested investor should consider the following:
There are assorted fertilisers, crop chemicals, farm implements and seed varieties, so it is imperative that you know what is needed by and acceptable to your customers and provide them with the very best of quality inputs.
For those that will deal in fertilisers, it is important to know about the nutrient value of different fertilisers and methods of conversion of nutrients to fertiliser material. It is also good to know the role of plant nutrients in crop production and what symptoms the crop show when the nutrient is deficient.
An agro-dealer should have knowledge of how to apply or use the inputs they sell. For example, he/she should know the time to use an input, methods of application and quantity to be used.
A good knowledge of marketing and sales is also important to enable the agro-dealer take the business to a profitable level. A knowledge of the local market and the demand of consumers is necessary, which would involve understanding the farmers’ practice and noting where there are gaps so as to provide advice and inputs to meet their needs.
The business requires both technical and business skills to ensure it is profitable. The livelihood of many farmers also depends on what they get out of their farms and the starting point for many of them is the kind of inputs they buy and how they use it. Thus being an agro-dealer is a business of trust, integrity and touching of lives when done properly. You will be on the path of helping farmers meet their needs and producing quality food and agricultural products.
It is a business and needs to be registered with relevant government agencies to avoid run-in with the law. For profitability for all stakeholders, the dealer should ensure to source quality inputs and at good prices.