Examining the Success and Constraints of Women Fresh Produce Resellers at the Lae Urban Food Market in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.
In this series we will posing a number of questions to our past students about their research projects.
Raylin Gena commenced her studies in 2019 at PNG Unitech under the supervision of Dr. Veronica Bue, Unitech, and Associate Professor Gina Koczberski, Curtin University. Her study focused on female fresh produce resellers at Lae Urban Food Market to understand the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of this group of resellers and to investigate their marketing transactions and the factors affecting their reselling business.
Raylin completed her Masters in September 2021. The title of her dissertation is “Examining the Success and Constraints of Women Fresh Produce Resellers at the Lae Urban Food Market in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.”
1) WHY IS YOUR RESEARCH IMPORTANT?
My research is the first detailed study of the personal characteristics and the trading dynamics of resellers in the Lae Urban Food Market. It is also amongst the first studies in PNG to focus on the growing prominence of reselling in fresh food marketplaces. The production and selling of fresh produce are important income sources for many farmers. In urban centres, many market vendors have shifted to reselling, by purchasing fresh produce in bulk and reselling them in smaller bundles or groups. There are now resellers found in almost all urban markets in PNG as they try to meet the demand for fresh produce in urban centres and some are operating as a business dealing with large quantities of fresh produce such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, potato and cabbage. This thesis helps shed light on this new and growing trend in fresh food marketing in PNG.
2) WHAT WERE THE MAIN FINDINGS OF YOUR THESIS?
- Better knowledge of the socio-economic characteristics of the women fresh produce resellers in the Lae Market.
Women make up the great majority of fresh food resellers at the Lae Urban Food Market. Most of these women are married and are between the ages of 30 to 50 years. The average family size was six members. Over 80% of resellers had either no schooling or had not progressed past primary school. The majority of the women who resell are from the Highlands region and they reside mainly in the peri-urban informal settlements within Lae. The average number of years involved with the reselling of fresh produce is 3 years. For many, reselling is their only source of income, and they are often the sole income earner for their family.
- Better understanding of how fresh produce is procured.
Over half of the fresh food resellers purchase produce directly from farmers or the primary producers, though 27% purchased their produce from other intermediaries. Most of the women (69%) purchase fresh produce at the market site and do not make pre-arrangements with the producer. Resellers can spend between K50 to K300 a day to purchase fresh produce, depending on what is in demand by consumers.
- An improved understanding of women resellers’ marketing activity
The majority of the women resellers sell at the market for 6 days per week, and most spend on average 7 to 8 hours daily. Most resell for themselves, without engaging a second party to sell for them. The female resellers tend to focus on selling one or two different types of produce at a time, but some may choose to sell up to six different types. Most resellers concentrate on selling crops such as sweet potato, broccoli, English potato and other introduced temperate climate crops.
Reseller profits vary based on the number of customers frequenting the market, demand and supply of specific produce, and the quality of the produce being sold. On a typical day, most of the resellers (66%) claimed they earned a profit of K20 to K60, and 23% said they earned a profit above K60. A few women (12%) said on a typical day the profit earned was less than K20. Resellers that earned a high profit (that is K50 to K100 a day) are usually those that sell high-value crops such as broccoli, carrots, capsicum, and cabbage heads. Resellers periodically make much higher profits, but many also make losses at times. Those resellers who sold a more diverse range of produce typically made greater profits.
3) WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT CONSTRAIN THE ABILITY OF THE PARTICIPANTS OF YOUR RESEARCH TO PURSUE SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS?
The ability of female resellers to pursue more sustainable livelihoods through expanding their enterprise was constrained by a range of factors. In the interviews, the top four constraining factors women identified were: i) factors beyond their control (e.g., sickness, bad weather); ii) security issues such as personal safety, theft, safekeeping of the income earned and safe storage of produce; iii) domestic issues, especially marital problems or family issues, and iv) consumer preference, leaving resellers with produce they cannot sell. Female resellers mentioned that marital problems and financial constraints have hindered the growth of their business. With marital problems, they received very little to no support from their spouses and that placed a strain on their income as they need to sustain their family and meet social obligations.
Some women mentioned financial constraints. A concern was their inability to get loans from financial institutions as they either lacked the collateral required or they did not fully understand the process of getting loans. The women were also fearful that a loan would mean less control over the income they earned and would be a risk to their reselling business as they would lose the freedom to market whenever they felt like it as they would be obliged to regularly pay off the loan.
4) WHAT ARE FACTORS THAT ENHANCE THE ABILITY OF THE PARTICIPANTS OF YOUR RESEARCH TO PURSUE SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS?
The top three factors identified by women as enhancing their reselling enterprise and their economic livelihoods included: being self-motivated to support and meet the needs of their families; faith in God; and good support from family and friends. Fifty-three percent of the female resellers credit their success and longevity in the reselling business to being highly self-motivated to meet the needs of their families. Some resellers (15%) have said that their faith in God has enabled them to successfully continue with their reselling.
Some women mentioned that they developed financial skills as a result of their reselling activity which was useful when it came to managing finances to sustain their family needs. With reselling, they have the flexibility to conduct marketing activities whenever they want, and should they choose to leave, they have the option to do so.
5) ARE THERE POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF YOUR RESEARCH?
Several policy implications emerge from my research.
- There is a need for urban and market authorities to upgrade market facilities and infrastructure. Chilled containers for storage of fresh produce, well maintained lavatory and proper marketing beds/tables are some of the changes required to cater for the increasing number of vendors at urban markets. The needs of both rural producers and urban-resident resellers should be considered within market planning.
- Banks and other financial organizations need to improve ways that can make small loans more suitable and accessible to female market vendors. More flexible repayment methods and low interest rates would assist women to be able to grow and maintain their businesses.
The Department of Education and the Government should consider including financial literacy training and education into the primary and secondary level curriculum. This will encourage the younger generation of Papua New Guineans and provide them with some of the necessary skills to run a successful small or possibly medium enterprise.
6) PLEASE LIST ANY RESEARCH ORGANISATIONS YOUR WORK HAS BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH
Gena, R. (2021). Examining the Success and Constraints of Women Fresh Produce Resellers at the Lae Urban Food Market in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (Masters of Science), PNG Unitech, Lae.
Photo credit: Raylin Gena
Raylin received financial support for her research from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research funded project, Identifying opportunities and constraints for rural women’s engagements in small-scale agricultural enterprises in Papua New Guinea (ASEM-2014-054).