An online trading platform is connecting farmers Bungoma and Eldoret farmers to local and domestic buyers assisting them by pass processes that eat into their profits, a move that has encouraged farming by especially young people and now grown to include over 10,000 traders in over 30 countries.
Dubbed The Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE), the trading portal supplies reliable and timely information on the availability and prices of a wide range of commodities, assisting buyers and sellers negotiate one on one.
For any one crop, the marketing chain consists of multiple middlemen, each taking a margin at every stage between producer and consumer.
KACE has however removed the red tape. Having been started in 1997, the portal has ridden on its success over the years to grow its buyer seller portfolio now standing at an impressive 10,000. KACE has now taken its services online, with the Regional Commodity Trade and Information System (RECOTIS), and a small but expanding network of local market information centres (MICs).
KACE staff collect information on the prices of various commodities from market vendors in major markets in Nairobi, Bungoma and Eldoret. The information is forwarded to KACE headquarters, where it is processed and made available to members via the RECOTIS pages on the KACE website, on notice boards at the MICs, or by fax. Trades are made through competitive bids and offers, which the system prioritizes according to price and time of receipt, and posts them on the website. Once a buyer and a seller agree to trade, KACE acts as a clearing house and for a commission arranges the financial and logistical aspects of the sale.
Access to telecommunications in Bungoma and Eldoret is limited, and usually expensive. However, the MICs are equipped with phone, fax and computers with a dial-up connection to the Internet, so that members of farmers’ associations, unions, cooperative societies and small traders can log on to the KACE website and place their offers of produce for sale. They can also obtain agribusiness news and information that is hoped to encourage business partnerships and promote trade both within Kenya and with the rest of Africa.
“For the farmers the centres have brought many benefits. They do not have to go far to find the market information they need, and are now far more self-reliant. Many visit the centres regularly to check on the prices of crops such as maize, millet, potatoes, bananas, sorghum or soybeans on different markets, and so can decide when and where to sell their produce for the best prices,”said Abraham W. Okolla a marketing manager of KACE.
As with any technology, the farmers were at first hesitant of the trading platform especially when they learnt they would part with a few shillings in order to check prices at the MICs or to place offers and bids but later realized it was far better to invest a small amount now than to lose hundreds of shillings to middlemen later. Farmers have now formed new associations and begun pooling their produce in order to access better markets where the prices are higher.
Written by JB Wesonga
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