OLX sets up agriculture category to rid sector of middlemen

Smallholder farmers in the country have often been victims of exploitative middlemen when it comes to selling their produce.

This has left many farmers poor, while these middlemen, who are barely aware of the production process, reap huge profits for linking producers to buyers.

Maize and wheat farmers in Rift Valley have particularly suffered this exploitation, with the situation exacerbated by the East African Market Protocol that allows produce from the region into the local market.

Now, OLX, an online marketing site, is seeking to position itself as a solution to eradicating exploitative middlemen. It has introduced an agriculture listing.

“We have been hosting classifieds for automobiles, furniture and electronics, but we realised many people were trying to list livestock for sale in the pets category in the last year, so we thought it is a need we should address,” said Peter Ndiang’ui, OLX Kenya’s country manager, adding that the pets category was particularly vibrant during the quail craze.

Market access

Speaking during an agriculture event in Eldoret, Mr Ndiang’ui said the weeks-old category has already got 100,000 views and was facilitating more than 1,000 listings a day from farmers who have quickly seen how the segment can address market access challenges.

“We have a farmer who was transferred from Mwea to work in Embu and wanted to sell his 15 hybrid dairy cows. He says he tried to look for a good market for the animals through word of mouth, but after three months, he hadn’t found somebody to buy the cows at their value,” Ndiang’ui said.

“Coincidentally, we had just introduced our new agriculture category and he tried it. He posted that the platform enabled him sell nine cows in one week to people as far away as Rift Valley. He sold the remaining cows a few days later. This shows the category’s relevance.”

Ndiang’ui added that the agriculture segment would find favour with bargain hunters who want to bypass middlemen who end up dictating the prices of produce.

Many small-scale farmers cannot sustain constant contract supplies to supermarkets and other consistent buyers, but lack marketing options due to the high costs of placing classifieds in mainstream media.

“Supermarkets that enter into contracts only sell 20 per cent of farm produce, with the remaining 80 per cent sold in regular markets that still rely on brokers due to the inconsistent quantity demanded. OLX’s agriculture category will, therefore, expand the market space and enable even traders to get products directly from the source,” said the country manager.

To improve the category, Ndiang’ui said OLX will list service providers, such as veterinary officers to verify animal breeds and health, to make the category all inclusive and address farmers’ needs.