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How to supply to Supermarkets: Buying fresh vegetables and fruits in supermarkets is now the trend. Love them or hate them the supermarkets are taking over the fresh produce markets.

The establishment of shopping malls across major cities is quickly transforming the fresh produce marketing. The distribution of these commodities seem to be moving towards fewer and large, centralised packaging and distribution centres.

The development is causing anxiety among farmers because supermarkets are taking away their loyal customers owing to convenience.

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Seeing that this wave is here to stay, more farmers are realising that, they have to change with the times. The farmers I have spoken to have shared with me that they are ready to change, but their problem is how can they ‘access’ this new market?

“The supermarkets are stealing the demand for fresh produce from the farmers’ markets. I also want to go that way, but I do not know where to start,” lamented Mama Njeri, a trader at an open air market in Nairobi’s Eastlands. Today I want to address all the facets of this trend and how farmers can tap into it?

First, product quality is everything. The supermarket managers I spoke to shared that many farmers who approach them fail on one key front — quality.

“Most farmers bring for us vegetables that look stale and smell bad. For a supermarket to accept your fresh produce on their shelves, you must prove that you can supply fresh vegetables or fruits,” a supermarket manager disclosed. Consistency in quality and actual supply is also fundamental.

“We not only expect high quality produce but reliable deliveries too,” says another supermarket manager. Suppliers have to observe strict food safety and quality standards. The produce must be intact, sound (not rotten, severely bruised or damaged), free from pests, sufficiently developed. Above all the product must be clean.

As a farmer you need to develop a relationship with the supermarket managers who are tasked with buying the fresh produce. To land the deal, you have to go out of your way and explain how the produce is grown. You can also offer to take the person in charge to your farm to see how things are run. Sellers who understand and appreciate where a food crop is coming from tend to be more likely to promote that crop to their consumers.

Price, quality and service matter. But to win the supermarket’s loyalty, you need to go the extra mile. You do not make money from growing a crop, you make money from satisfied customers. In these competitive times, running a customer oriented business can make a difference between success and failure.

Adhere to commonly accepted standards for produce. If as a farmer you are unsure of how to size, grade, and pack the produce, seek an expert’s services. Train you farm workers on proper picking, grading/sorting and packaging techniques.

This feature was first published by the journal Smart Harvest.

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