Getting a fair price at market is always a struggle.In many countries in Africa, there exists an antiquated trading system. A farmer sells his produce to individual buyers, who then crisscross the countryside on bicycles and sell the goods to processing plants in towns and cities and then pass them on to distributors, retailers and exporters. These individual buyers pay rock-bottom prices, making profits for themselves but leaving the farmers struggling to survive.
But a company called Esoko has found an innovative technology to change all that.
Prosper Biche is a yam farmer from eastern Ghana. For a small fee, Prosper has signed up to receive 10 price updates a week from Esoko,a private agricultural market information platform, helping him learn not only what his produce is worth but when is the best time to travel to market to sell it.
“Before Esoko, I sent my 100 tubers of yam to Accra and could get 20 Ghana cedis for it,” Prosper says. “Now I check prices on Esoko and go to Accra when prices are good. I can get up to 200 Ghana cedis for the same 100 tubers.”
For only US$1 per month, this service has a tremendous return on investment; Esoko reports that farmers are now paid 20 to 40 percent more for their crops, a significant increase to their income and family’s quality of life.
Esoko uses researchers to obtain data for most of the agricultural markets it covers, but hopes in the future to have users directly supply most of the information to the system. The product is expanding to include information on stocks, the weather and buyer locations, as well as helping to coordinate transport and supply chain infrastructure. Currently, it is being used in nine African countries, including Nigeria and Malawi.