Smallholder horticultural supply chains in Zambia have suffered not only from dysfunctional wholesale market ownership and management systems but also the lack of reliable market information systems that can inform supply chain actors’ decision-making. This situation is made worse by the usually high levels of variation that horticultural produce can experience within a day let alone a week. Furthermore, horticultural produce is mostly perishable and supply gluts can lead not only to plummeting prices but also to environmental degradation arising from large heaps of decomposing waste. This state of affairs is one of the key factors inhibiting smallholder participation in horticultural markets in Zambia. Only about 20% do participate in these markets, yet this participation has the potential to increase household income up to 300% (Hichaambwa, Chamberlin, and Sitko 2015).
The provision of efficient market information (or at least price information) can have positive effects on agricultural supply chains benefitting both farmers and traders and, indeed, policy makers. Up-to-date or current market information enables farmers to negotiate with traders from a position of greater strength and facilitates spatial distribution of products from rural areas to towns and between markets. In addition, quality historical market information enables farmers to make planting decisions, including those related to new crops. It also permits traders to make better decisions regarding the viability of intra- and, perhaps, inter-seasonal storage. Moreover, information of this type assists agricultural planners and researchers and can make an important contribution to early warning of impending food security problems.