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Working Paper 243 - Selling crops early to pay for school: A large-scale natural experiment in Malawi


Crop prices in sub-Saharan Africa exhibit substantial seasonal fluctuations. The nominal prices of some crops increase by as much as 50–100% from their harvest-season trough to their lean-season peak (Burke, 2014; Kaminski, Christiaensen and Gilbert, 2014). These regular and largely predictable price changes o↵er farmers a profitable opportunity. Those who can a↵ord to delay selling crops until prices rise during the lean season enjoy returns that often exceed those available through savings groups or other financial mechanisms.

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