On a light note, did you know that April 19 was Garlic Day? That is right. A day to recognise this strong-smelling, pungent-tasting bulb, used for cooking but also eaten raw for health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
Garlic now has another major benefit for small holder farmers in Northern Mozambique. They considered it as a viable alternative to traditional but declining cash crops like cotton and tobacco.
Mr Avencio Matenga, an Agribusiness Advisor in Mozambique who completed an Agribusiness short course in 2017, explains: ‘We were attracted by garlic’s potential because local conditions were suitable for its production, it has a long life without requiring a cool chain and there is an opportunity for domestic production to substitute for imports from China.’
The short course Avencio took—facilitated by the University of Queensland—opened his eyes to the benefits of strong relationships and communication between value chain actors in facilitating traceability systems. While in Australia, he witnessed how farmers were well connected to processors and retailers, providing them with valuable knowledge on what produce the market wants.
On his return, Avencio researched domestic garlic consumers to understand why garlic is valued, what the market preferences are and how the value chain can be improved to meet demand. The research involved shoppers from open markets and super markets. Research methods included observation, focus groups and intercept interviews. The research team also conducted taste tests. They found that the most influential attributes were taste and aroma—with spiciness key. Others were shelf-life, freshness, bulb colour and clove size. Supermarket shoppers also had some packaging preferences, while restaurants wanted easy peeling.
The research reported lack of trust, commitment and collaboration across the value chain, from farmers to consumers, mainly caused by weak information flow. Weak information flow limits the benefits of market information, feedback and forward planning, thereby resulting in low-quality garlic being pushed down the chain without respecting consumer preferences. It also contributes to reduced prices, further driving opportunistic behaviour.
As part of the research project, the team looked at a new Brazilian improved garlic variety, BRS Hozan, being produced by a small company in Southern Mozambique. Avencio’s project is establishing seed multiplication systems in Northern Mozambique to enable wider use of this variety. He is confident that clusters of production will be set up involving commercial farmers to make the seeds for this new variety widely available. ‘We will also look to attract private seed companies to invest their resources on certified garlic-seed production,’ Avencio says.
Other interventions expected to strengthen domestic garlic value chains include building the capacity of all chain members (from input suppliers to retailers) to adopt gravity irrigation which will add value with yield, size of cloves, freshness, and air-conditioned storage to meet requirements for shelf-life.
It is people like Avencio who add value to farmers through improved crop-production strategies and increased income. Their work enables us to purchase a greater variety of locally grown garlic.