Grain and cereal farmers in Rwanda will now be able to access regional market information, particularly prices and markets, thanks to an online platform unveiled by the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC).
The Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (RATIN) will help address the problem of poor access to market information among grain and cereal value chain actors in the country, Seth Kwizera, the EAGC country programme manager, said.
He said stakeholders will be able to choose where to sell or buy grains at better prices.
“The platform helps users to know prices in countries we are working with because the value chain actors communicate through the platform by sharing daily updates on prices without moving from one place to another,” he said while explaining at the launch in Kigali recently.
This, he added, will reduce transaction cost and time and hence improve access to better markets. The platform targets farmers, suppliers, processors, traders and consumers share market information, and will contain data, including current prices and areas with bumper harvests.
Twenty-three grains and cereals produced in the East African region are registered and traded on the platform.
The facility also records volumes at border posts. For Rwanda, it is currently operational at Rusumo, Gatuna, Kagitumba, Cyanika borders, and monitors markets in Kigali and Huye, according to Kwizera. EAGC operates in 10 countries, including Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Malawi, Zambia and the DRC.
According to Epiphanie Karekezi, the market information system officer, the facility uses SMS service, whereby a farmer or trader can access price information on their mobile phones.
“We are presently in the process of harmonising the short message service option for mobile phone users. When the process is completed, it will help farmers to stay updated on what is going on in the grain business across the region,” she said.
She said the system, which is the first of its kind in Africa, could help users to increase return on investment, reduce transaction costs, as well as facilitate informed decisions and policy formulation.
Fidel Nizeyimana, a crop (maize) scientist at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said extension staff trained in using the platform will help ordinary farmers who are not ICT literate, updating them on sector trends and prices.
“Farmers need key information, including prices and available markets, because many of them are not ICT literate. Therefore, as the responsible body, we are going to help farmers by interpreting and giving them all the market information from the platform so they benefit from the initiative,” he said.
He reiterated that farmers invest a lot in agriculture and therefore need market information so that they get better prices on the produce in order to avoid aftermath losses.
Reports indicate that 30 per cent of grain and cereal is lost in developing economies due to many factors, including poor storage facilities.
According to EAGC, Rwandan farmers are advised to ensure quality of grains and cereals through post-harvest handling process as an instrument that will help them attract better prices.
Tharcisse Twahirwa, the president of KUTUKA Grain Co-operative in Nyagatare District, told The New Times that Rwandan farmers will be able to compare the local prices with these from regional countries so that they sell their produce at the right and standardised prices.
Lack of market and poor prices offered by middlemen are some of the big challenges faced by local farmers. So, the initiative is a huge boost.