New online marketplace to boost smallholder farmers in EAC

Zadock Matara displays his fruit at the Suneka Market in Kisii County. The ACEA Buyer-Seller platform aims to connect the agri-food actors of the East African Community. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

An online agri-food market to help East African Community farmers sell agricultural products has been unveiled.

The Agri-Food Confederation of East Africa (ACEA) has launched the online agri-food marketplace to help vendors in the region find markets for their green products.

Called the ACEA Buyer-Seller Platform, it aims to connect agro-industry players in the agricultural value chains of the East African Community. East African countries produce a lot of agricultural products but the challenge remains the market for these products.

Through the free-to-register platform, farmers can market their products to all potential customers, such as wholesalers, importers, exporters and supermarkets in the region who are already using the platform and exchange contacts for other business transactions.

ACEA is the regional umbrella body for associations and federations of the private sector in the agro-food sector. He is the main voice and representative of private sector agribusiness actors within the East African Business Council.

Speaking from Rwanda at a virtually launched event in Nairobi, Robert Rukundu, president of the Rwanda Agricultural Exporters Association, said the country produces a lot of agricultural products but lacks market information.

Lack of market information

“The platform will give us a good opportunity to enter markets by sharing information on which markets for which product,” he explained.

He said ACEA will not interfere with or get involved in logistics, business transactions between buyers and sellers who connect through the platform.

Victoria Sekitoleko, Ugandan business community, said that although local farmers produced a lot of agricultural produce, the lack of market forced them to sell through brokers who offered mediocre prices.

“The Ugandans are happy with the formation of the platform. They will do even better when they have the system, ”she said.

Dr Kevit Desai, Principal Secretary of the State Department of the East African Community, praised the platform, saying it was a remarkable step towards the digitization of intra-trade. regional.

He challenged stakeholders when launching the portal, it is important to reflect on the state of the agricultural sector and the underlying factors that have hampered regional trade such as low-level agricultural activities, farming systems. extension, inadequate added value and declining soil utility.

“We need to influence the formulation and implementation of policies and strategies for improving agricultural value chains and promoting the common interests of individual agricultural enterprises in the eastern region,” he said.

The PS added that to improve intra-regional trade, in the agricultural sector, data is needed.

The speakers reiterated that the biggest struggle is to revolutionize a traditional sector with new technologies. Fortunately, new generations of agripreneurs are contributing to this narrative, as they are open to innovative platforms and applications.

Dr Bimal Kantaria, president of the Agribusiness Confederation of East Africa and the Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET) praised the platform saying it will bridge the gap between buyers and sellers.

“… coming together, trying to reduce duplication within the region and focusing on agriculture and agribusiness could help increase banking investments in the agricultural sector,” he said.

Jacqueline Mukindi, Tanzania, said they are happy to formalize agri-food trade in the East African region.

“The millions of Tanzanians engaged in agriculture are excited about the new platform as it will contribute to regional agricultural trade,” she said.

Rajan Shah, of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said the platform will put farmers and buyers in direct contact with each other, cutting out middlemen.

“The middleman has filled in the gaps in inefficiencies, but putting the buyer and seller together will bring more price transparency,” he said.

Rajan explained that when the buyer and seller are in direct contact, there is better communication of the expectation of product quality and standardization.

It is optimistic that the ACEA buy-sell platform will inspire actors such as banks and insurance companies to play an effective role in unlocking capital.

Peter Mathuke, Secretary General of the East African Community, who was the main guest, praised the stakeholders behind the portal, saying they are essential for influencing trade policy at the regional level.

“Article 105 of the treaty clearly provides for a field of cooperation and promotion of agriculture within the East African Community. It calls on States and partner actors to come together, coordinate and come up with a clear framework on how to promote agriculture in East Africa. And that’s what you do as ACEA, ”he said.

Mathuke stressed that an important pillar for a very successful seller-buyer platform is to ensure that there is two-way communication between the participating communities.

“Communication has to be clear in terms of what is required and what specifications. But also respect for those who provide services from those who produce and consume, ”he said.

He challenged ACEA stakeholders to consider seeking observer status within the East African Community, which will provide them with a better platform to engage with all decision makers. policies.