Smallholder Farmers to Benefit from Online Trading Platform

farmerThe Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) has launched the G-Soko Platform which is an online trading platform that links smallholder farmers to grain buyers through a networked and structured market mechanism.

The platform was launched at a ceremony held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi and was officiated by the East African Community’s Secretary General, Richard Sezibera. Notable regional and international stakeholders graced the occasion key among them being, The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Department for International Development (DFID) FoodTrade ESA and The British High Commission.

The G-Soko platform is developed by the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) in partnership with FoodTrade Eastern and Southern Africa, and Virtual City, a leading mobile software solutions firm supporting the supply chain and agribusiness industry in Africa. This is through a 5-year trade enhancement and promotion programme that aims to encourage trading in regional staple food markets.

The UK through DFID Africa Regional Department has invested £35 million (Kes 6 billion) in the Food Trade Eastern and Southern Africa programme to stimulate the regional grains market through partnerships with private companies and policy influencing.

“Right now there is urgency to expand regional food trade due to the exponential growth of staple food imports. Linking rural food surplus production zones in Eastern Africa to major deficit urban consumption centres requires a well-functioning regional market. We wanted to address this deficiency but also do it in a way that is inclusive and effective. This is why we developed G-Soko; a market transaction platform that will enhance food trade across borders, and contribute towards making trading more transparent,” Mr. Gerald Masila, Executive Director of EAGC said.

The platform performs a structured trade function that integrates the entire grain trade from farm to market. Through G-Soko, farmers are able to aggregate their produce through a certified warehouse and also access financial services using their grains as collateral. For the first time, grain farmers in the region including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will now be able to trade their grain free, competitively and transparently across the region, through the G-Soko Platform.

Reiterating the technical capabilities of the platform and its role as a solution-provider, Virtual City Managing Director, John Waibochi noted that, “The model addresses the challenge of funds inadequacy by devising affordable export/import financing modalities. It creates synergies from the small scale farmers to the bulk buyers based on tested market structures. This system also enhances traceability of grains. Its Grain Bulking feature allows farmers to consolidate and sell their grains at aggregation centers linked with certified warehouses. More importantly, G-Soko will Increase the utilization of East African standards for grain commodities and products because quality assurance is key.”

Speaking at the event Marc Van Uytvanck, Team Leader of FoodTrade ESA said that, ”FoodTrade is proud to be associated with the East Africa Grain Council and its G-Soko Project that unlocks trade for smallholder farmers through a private sector-driven market platform that will link buyers and sellers in staple foods in Eastern Africa against spot market condition. The platform will provide farmers utilizing the certified warehouses to access local financing from participating banks for inputs; will increase production and create surpluses; and accelerate the utilization of grades and standards for grains and beans.”

The East Africa Community (EAC) also put its weight behind the G-Soko platform reinstating its commitment to develop sustainable structures in Grain Trade.

Mr. Jean Baptiste Havugimana, Director Productive Sectors, speaking on behalf of the Secretary General, Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera, noted that the G-Soko Platform, was instrumental in driving regional integration and Trade, while assuring quality grades and standards for economic growth. “The EAC is committed to working with the Eastern Africa Grain Council and its regional partners in regional economic growth and support to regional trade within the EAC member states. As a private sector partner, we believe G-SOKO, will provide a wider grain market for all the countries in the region. Farmers from the member states can now trade freely as part of the common market protocol, through this partnership.”

A pilot project in Kenya that ran prior to the official launch attracted 10 warehouses and 5 banks, setting the pace for an optimistic gradual scaling throughout the Eastern Africa region. The event culminated into an exhibition where participants logged onto various workstations and were able to test out G-Soko’s features.

Source: Corporate -Digest

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