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Farmers take out brokers from value chain by logging into online market

SMART HARVEST
By Maureen Akinyi | February 27th 2016

If you are a farmer looking to sell fruits, vegetables, maize or any other farm produce, you can post your products online. You can now interact with new customers on a new Internet sales forum.

Kenya’s biggest online sales market, OLX has launched the agricultural commodities segment that seeks to help farmers sell their produce over the Internet, without spending money to transport their commodities.

All a farmer or any other person who trades on agricultural produce needs to do is take pictures of the products, make a brief description and upload the data online for buyers and other interested traders to peruse and make decisions.

Basically, the technology is the same deployed on social media sites like Facebook.

The farmer or gardener sets up an account on the OLX website and then posts what is available and if possible, arranges a time and place for delivery or collection.

Under the new project, farmers can now use their phones to take photos of the farm commodities and upload the details on the OLX website that will act as a trading platform.

Some young farmers are working out the logistics of online sales. Evans Njeru from Embu signed up last month and has been selling his products on the new platform.

Njeru sells tree seedlings in Embu and says customers started flocking his business site immediately he started posting pictures of the tree seedlings online.

“I sell eucalyptus trees in Embu and several people have been visiting to see my trees and make purchases,” Njeru tells Smart Harvest.

Esther Chege has recorded over 2,000 advertisement views since she listed her cows on the agricultural segment, got over 20 inquiries and sold two cows in less than a month and says the platform has helped her weed out exploitative go-betweens because she now engages directly with her customers.

OLX, which is taking up the role of a mediator, has launched the programme and thousands of farmers and traders are flocking to the online marketing forum on a daily basis to trade in farm produce.

The firm’s major aim now is to ensure the agricultural and construction sectors that have been active for about two months now become part and parcel of the economy and its offerings.

OLX Country manager Peter Ndiang’ui says the earlier farmers shift to digital platforms the better for them to be found by their customers.

“At a macro-level, agriculture contributes over a quarter of Kenya’s economic output and employs a significant number of Kenyans. In 2014 this sector contributed over 40 per cent of the recorded five percent increase of Kenya’s GDP so it is an important sector that OLX wishes to promote for betterment of our economy,” says Mr Ndiang’ui.

The firm seeks to sign up as many farmers as possible and is encouraging traders to venture online to buy fresh produce.

“There are two kinds of farmers,” says an agricultural officer who requested not to be named because he had not sought clearance from the Ministry of Livestock.  “There is the kind who will utilise technology and the kind who simply won’t. The young ones using Facebook and other social media will jump on this bandwagon. That is a beautiful option for farmers and for restaurant chefs looking for fresh foodstuff,” he added.

This means farmers in Kenya can now sell their produce anywhere in the country because once listed, the farm produce is visible to other traders in any part of the country.

The new agricultural segment, which one can access by downloading the OLX application to their phones or computer will see sellers safely sell their products enabling buyers to have easy access to the goods without interference from brokers whose involvement always make agricultural products pricier. Ndiang’ui said the development was timely and will now enable farmers access markets easily.

“This development will enable us enhance the safety of our users and also lessen the burden of transport on them even as more traders, micro-businesses and consumers troop to our platform every day to sell,” said Ndiang’ui.

He regretted that there is a mismatch between production and consumption and that is why OLX is focusing on agribusiness to link up dairy and other farmers with potential buyers.

“Lagos and Accra buy their dairy products from Europe because of advertising their products and this is a market in Africa that Kenyan farmers can easily tap into,” he said.

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