Grain council moots online platform to link farmers to market

Cereal growers stand to win big after the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) launched a new online trading platform that seeks to give small-holder farmers more value from their yields.

The G-Soko platform, built by a local technology company, Virtual City, allows farmers sell their produce directly to bidders using a competitive and transparent pricing formula. “This new portal eliminates middlemen and ensures that farmers get the most value from their produce by marketing it to a network of buyers,” stated EAGC Executive Director Gerald Masila. Mr Masila said the platform will increase food production and enhance food security by accurately matching the supply and demand needs in the East African market. “Right now, there is an urgency to expand regional food trade due to the exponential growth of staple food imports,” he said.

“Linking rural food-surplus production zones in Eastern Africa to major deficit urban consumption centres requires a well-functioning regional market. The transaction model of G-Soko allows us to execute this perfectly.” According to  Virtual City Managing Director John Waibochi, G-Soko has been built to accommodate farmers across all region irrespective of their level of digital literacy. “The whole system is based on using the right technology at different levels,” explained Mr Waibochi. “We are using mobile technology at the field and aggregation level, personal computer technology at the warehouse level and cloud technology for the overall ecosystem.”

He said immediately farmer deliver produce to the warehouse they get an SMS indicating how much grain has been received. Apart from increasing returns by between 40-50 per cent, the developers of G-Soko say the automation of the grain-trading process provides farmers and traders with numerous benefits.

The platform developed at an initial cost of Sh160 million, allows farmers to create an account for free and are only charges transaction fees when selling and collecting earnings. Already, 70 warehouses have been inspected and EAGC wants to have 200 new warehouses in the system by next year, eradicating the informal grain trading practice.

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