• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Village market organises fair for traders to leverage online trading of farm produce

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There appears to have been a surge in online trading of agricultural produce during the recent lockdowns across the country. The difficulty in physically accessing food markets during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdowns, brought to reality the ‘new normal’ of shopping perishables, other types of food stuff and groceries online.

Village market, an online platform in existence since 2016 saw a jump in access to it, and recently organised a fair to get more players in the food distribution value chain acquainted with using technology to reach new markets.

“We really took advantage during the lockdown and were able to sell and move even with problems of police on the road, yet experienced high percentage of sales,” said Aderemi Sanni-Banjo, who recently convened the Farm to Urban Table Fair by Village Market. “We could see for that short time that what we sold was quite enormous and encouraging. As a matter of fact, that was the time people who didn’t know us were getting to know us.”

Themed ‘Developing Integrated Digital Food Market’, the fair was organised to leverage on the emerging opportunities in using the internet as a way to have agricultural produce delivered from farms to urban dwellers, and cutting to the barest minimum, the interference of middlemen.

“Our vision is to try to eliminate middlemen, so we want to bring from farmers and directly to (consumers) Lagos,” said Sani-Banjo. She also explained the platform also has arrangements with some farmers and processors in a few states whose products are brought directly to Lagos.

“We have found from our statistics and research that the middlemen are one of the major problems in bringing food from villages to urban centres so we are trying to connect farmers directly and some are already on the network,” she said.

According to her, most of the products on offer via the platform are 5-10 percent cheaper than market prices and trying to make sure it achieves even cheaper prices. A major problem, however, remains transportation. “From the village to Lagos it costs so much to bring food,” she said.

According to Sani-Banjo, while moving more businesses online may have become the ‘new normal’, it could be made a ‘better normal’, which will eliminate needless physical visits to often-rowdy markets. As people need to devote more time to being productive, she explained this emphasis on utilising online platforms will give people an opportunity to shop for food items at their convenience and have same delivered with ease.

The platform current operates two models; the affiliate model and the franchise model. In the affiliate model, people are able to sell their goods without a physical shop but by promoting links to existing online stores on the platform to get customers. They can also have people signing up under them to earn points. On the other hand, the franchise model also works with or without an existing physical shop but with a dedicated online store, with opportunities for mentoring, coaching and supplies of goods as may be required.

For food trading to thrive online, just like the conventional eCommerce platforms, she identifies limitations to include internet access, with many people not having access to the internet, and the cost of internet as well. She notes, however, that there is a need to continually educate people to move from the “normal to this better normal” in trading farm produce. Integrity, she says is also very important because one of the reservations people have is integrity that they would get the right qualities and quantities for farm produce purchased online.