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Marketing, Processing and Utilization

Challenges hindering the fresh sweetpotato root to be introduced into the national market. • Pre- and post- harvest treatments and operations that help improve the quality of sweetpotato to get them into the national market.

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    • #13293
      Sarah Mayanja

      Dear COP,

      At the last marketing meeting we held in Dar-es-Salaam early this year, we agreed to focus our discussion on challenges hindering introduction of fresh sweetpotato roots in the national markets.  In this discussion topic, we shall pay special attention to pre and post-harvest treatments and operations that help improve the quality of fresh roots thus improving their marketability.  In SSA, farmers and traders face barrıers to entry ınto natıonal markets due to a host of factors related to poor handlıng of the roots, whıch all of us are familiar.  To address these constraints, we have desıgned ınterventıons ın our varıous projects and programs have resulted ın ımproved marketing of roots (Kirimi et al (2015);  We thus want to share what has worked and where the remaınıng challenges lay.  Specıfıcally, we aım to cover the followıng areas ın thıs dıscussıon:

      • What are the major pre and post-harvest handlıng ıssues that affect the qualıty of sweetpotato roots and deter theır marketabılıty? Specifically, which pre-harvest issues have a bearing on post-harvest quality?
      • What repercussions do these have on male and female farmers and traders?
      • What ınnovatıve measures have farmers, traders and development actors undertaken to address these challenges? What measures have been adopted; and under what conditions?
      • What worked well? What and how can these be replıcated ın other sweetpotato markets? What has not worked well, and what lessons can we draw from such experiences?
      • As a CoP, can we recommend some practıces and agree on mınımum practices (gıven the varıabılıty ın markets) to work towards improving quality and marketability of sweetpotato roots?

      Please share your thoughts and views on these important marketing and pre and post-harvest issues. Also share literature/references you have access to.


      This discussion topic run until October 29, 2016.


      Best regards,



    • #13656

      I had an experience in Ghana, I would like to share.

      I have been working with sweetpotato aggregators for 2 years now. All they transport is the white- and yellow-fleshed sweetpotato roots because that is what food vendors preferred to fry. I enquire from farmers why they are not growing OFSP, and I was told that the aggregators won’t buy it. In some instances, aggregators paid for the cultivation of the non-OFSP cultivars.

      Thus to promote fresh roots the value chain actors, we have to consider the aggregators. We need to engage them on the importance of the OFSP. Otherwise, we will not sustain the production at the farmer level.

      Also pre- and post-harvest treatments to cure the roots should be encouraged at the farmer-level.

    • #13720
      Sarah Mayanja

      Dear Francis,
      Thanks a lot for getting us started. You raise a very important point – working with aggregators to build stronger and more reliable sweetpotato value chains. I too have had some experience in working with aggregators in the Lake Zone, Tanzania and I must say that I totally agree with you. In our case, we had a sensitization forum with the aggregators/large buyers after we visited them in the market and they shared their negative views about OFSP. Some said it was a GMO. Others said it was a product of research – and like with all research products, the taste, shelf life and other attributes had all been tampered with. We explained the nature of OFSP and its benefits – and this got them very interested to work with us.
      But before I delve more into our experience, I am requesting that you share a lit bit more with us on your own experiences:
      – how did you approach the aggregators?
      – what has been the nature of your collaboration?
      -how are you dealing with the challenge of promoting OFSP to the aggregators so that in turn they can demand for the roots from the farmers?

      Thanks a lot once again,

    • #13754

      My responses to your issues you raised:

      -how did you approach the aggregators?

      We met the aggregators at the urban market (Agbogbloshie) where we explained to them what we want to do and needed their support. They agreed to work with us after a little resistance.

      – what has been the nature of your collaboration?

      The sweetpotato business in Afram Plains, Eastern Region Ghana is a little bit structured where every aggregator has a contact farmer he/she buys their roots from. So we go to the field with the aggregators pay for the cost of the roots we would be analysing as well as the cost of transporting those roots to the urban market. For the inconveniences caused to them we give them a token in the form of cash.

      -how are you dealing with the challenge of promoting OFSP to the aggregators so that in turn they can demand for the roots from the farmers?

      This is really a big challenge . Most consumers in Accra prefer sweetpotato when fried . Unfortunately, the OFSP cultivars around are low in dry matter and becomes soggy after frying. This makes the aggregators shy away from transporting it. They also complained about the high perishability of the OFSP cultivars relative to the other cultivars.

      Addressing the challenges
      As efforts are directed towards developing OFSP with high dry matter content, the following should be observed for the time being:
      • Aggregators and consumers needs to know the different kinds of dishes that could be prepared using OFSP
      • They also need to know the nutritional benefits of consuming OFSP
      • Develop storage structures that could minimize postharvest losses associated with OFSP and sweetpotato in general.

    • #13757

      Thanks, Francis and Sarah for these interesting insights. We also need to consider the demand angle, and I think that is where we can focus some of our efforts in completing this puzzle. As more and more consumers become aware of the possible benefits of OFSP and demand goes up, aggregators and farmers alike will drift towards the crop naturally. As you say explaining to aggregators alone may not be sufficient if we want to ensure that we are OFSP is accepted. Demand from processing is also critical if we are to get farmers to grow OFSP. Thus work on this area should be expanded.
      More thoughts soon

    • #13770
      Madjaliwa Nzamwita

      Thank you all for sharing your experience. I would like to share my experience to improve the quality of the roots, hence increased customer satisfaction.
      We all know that sweetpotato is a highly perishable root, implying that it can only be stored for a short period of time before it starts deteriorating unless appropriate measures are taken. During my discussions, earlier this year, with sweetpotato farmers from different Districts of Rwanda (Southern, Northern and Eastern provinces), I realised that one of the most important factors contributing to the post harvest losses in sweetpotato was poor handling of the roots during and after harvesting.
      Some of the farmers indicated that up to 35% of the roots are physically damaged during harvesting. We do not know the quantity of the roots that get damaged during the subsequent stages such as packaging, loading/unloading, transport, marketing and storage. In my view, we should reflect more on reducing the amount of damage/wounds, inflicted to the roots, that may occur along all those stages as a result of poor handling.

      I would like to mention some inappropriate practices that occur along the sweetpaotato value chain and recommended action to reduce root damage:

      1-Forcing the roots out of the soil (during harvesting).
      Recommended measures: Roots should be removed from the soil gently after loosening the soil to avoid skin damage and cuts)
      2-Throwing the roots (from long distances) during harvesting to create heaps on the field
      Recommended measures: We should actually place them on the same spots where they were harvested and then collected using crates or any other containers.
      3- Exposing them on the sun.
      Recommended measures: Placing them under the shades to avoid dehydration and sunburns
      4-Mixing damaged and good quality roots
      Recommended measures: On-farm sorting of the roots
      5-Forcing the roots inside the bags/crates during packaging
      Recommended measures: Placing the roots gently without forcing them thereby avoiding overloading the containers
      6-Throwing bags/crates (containing SP) inside the truck during loading
      Recommended measures: Placing the containers gently inside the truck
      7-Jumping on the bags to allow more space for additional bags (I witnessed this practice in 2009 when casual workers were loading fresh bananas into the truck in Eastern Province)
      Recommended measures: Trucks should not be overloaded to allow more aeration (netting bags and crates are recommended in this regard)

      We all remember that any damage (microscopic or macroscopic) to the skin is the beginning of the end of the roots. We have therefore the responsibility to promote appropriate postharvest handling practices to sustain consistent supply of sweetpotatoes to market. We need also to train casual workers at every stage (from harvesting to processing) on good practices because they are the ones who handle the roots several times as compared to the farmers, wholesalers, traders, retailers, and processors!

    • #14053
      Julius Juma Okello

      I am a late entrant to this and indeed out of the scheduled time, but I thought to add my 50 cents. Robert is right that consumer demand for quality produce could drive changes in the way farmers, rural assemblers (aggregators) and market traders handle the sweetpotato roots. However, Robert is looking at quality in terms of nutritional content. I will focus on physical quality (such as cleanness from dirt/soil, spotlessness, and lack of bruises). My experience from horticultural industry in developing countries is that farmer demand for these kinds of quality attributes can also drive the supply of quality (as I define here) sweetpotato roots. In other words, when consumers become discerning about the roots being being sold in the market the suppliers (producers, aggregators and traders) will respond accordingly. However, this is not something we can expect in wet (open air) markets where consumers are more concerned about price than quality. It will be driven by middle and high income consumer consumers. This is, to some extent, starting to emerge in retail markets frequented by such consumers. I have in mind here the supermarkets and specialty stores such as Zucchini in Nairobi.

      I should also add that private standards such as supermarkets refusing to purchase dirty/soiled/bruised roots can also encourage suppliers to be more careful about the quality of the roots they bring to the market. Again, this is something that studies hae shown to occur. My point is that demand for phyiscial quality attributes by the consumers, driven by increase in income, can drive changes in the way the produce is handled.

      For the wet markets and the general consumers, public regulations (if enfored) can also change the quality of produce sold. This has worked in developed countries where the concern (in the case of horticulture) was with cintaining cross contamination of prodce being sold (e.g., soil-born pathogens infecting fresh veg). I do not know of countries in Africa where public standards have made such a difference (mainly due to lack of enforcement where they exist) – may be S Africa.

    • #14129
      Ganiyat Olatunde

      I did not comment on this topic earlier because I have not been close to farmers and traders of sweetpotato particularly OFSP. My area is post harvest utilization, however, after following comments so far, I thought it may not be out of place to provide the little information I have based on the Rainbow Project in Nigeria which has ended.
      As part of the Project, we conducted a survey to characterize the marketing of OFSP roots and determine demand and supply in about three States (Kaduna, Nassarawa and Benue) and Abuja (the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria). These States are within the North Central region. I had the opportunity of interaction with some farmers, aggregators and a lot of traders.
      Generally, OFSP is not a common variety. In fact the first officially released OFSP varieties (Mothers’ Delight and King J) by the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) was in December, 2013 as a result of Projects put in place in Partnership with CIP. So the OFSP found in some of the markets were from farmers reached by the Project.
      I don’t have information on pre-harvest treatments.
      The attractive colour of the OFSP was an advantage that drew farmers, traders and consumers.
      The post harvest issues were related to packaging and transportation from the farmer locations, as well as distribution and sale at markets.
      The roots were packed in sacks of between 50 – 120 kg and transported by loading in trucks of various capacities sometimes to markets outside the state of cultivation. It may take up to a week before it arrives at the markets. The sacks are mostly stored in the open and in piles for days, this certainly affects the freshness. Freshness influences the price of the roots as fresh ones command higher price than old ones.
      Size was a factor in the sense that fryers preferred big sizes while home consumers were not particular about size. Big sizes command higher price. It is important to report that fried sweetpotato is a common snack and a major trade by street vendors.
      Characteristics of the roots especially dry matter and sweetness were also important; high dry matter was preferred for frying. Mothers’ delight is sweeter but has lower dry matter.

      Another Scenario is in Osun State, in the South Western part; OFSP is grown by farmers reached by efforts of similar projects. The good news about Osun State is that growers of OFSP have been linked to the School Feeding Programme of the State Government.

      My personal opinion is that basically awareness needs to be created about the benefits OFSP. Issues of transportation and distribution needs to be addressed to ensure freshness. Post harvest utilization by processors for various products should be addressed to encourage production. Grading according to size and other characteristics could ensure premium pricing. This list is not exhaustive. A lot of reasonable suggestions have been put forward by earlier participants. Lets pull them together and address them bearing in mind peculiarities in different Countries.

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