By: YVONNE KAWIRA
The Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) Friday launched an online trading platform for farmers to sell grains through a structured mechanism.
The platform called G-soko which links smallholder farmers to grain buyers has been developed by the EAGC in partnership with FoodTrade Eastern and Southern Africa, and Virtual City an IT firm based in Kenya.
According to a statement from EAGC, this is through a 5-year trade enhancement and promotion programme that aims to encourage trading in regional staple food markets.
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,” said EAGC Executive Director, Mr Gerald Masila.
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.
According to Virtual City Managing Director, John Waibochi, 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.
“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,” Mr Waibochi said.
The East Africa Community (EAC) also put its weight behind the G-Soko platform reinstating its commitment to develop sustainable structures in Grain Trade.
EAC Director Productive Sectors Jean Baptiste Havugimana, speaking on behalf of the Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera said that the G-Soko platform, is 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 regional trade within the EAC member states.