19 February 2013

Nigeria: Firm Seeks Enhanced Farmers Income Through Phones

An indigenous technology firm, Novus Agro, is seeking ways to help Nigerian farmers boost their income by increasing their sales through access to markets using the mobile phone technology.

Novus Agro believes that the transformation that is being driven in the agricultural sector by the present Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, may not succeed if it is not technology-driven especially through the use of mobile phones.

Addressing journalists in Lagos, a representative of Novus Agro, Obiajuru Igborgbor, noted that the company was trying to bridge the information gap in the agricultural sector using technology through the mobile phone.

"Novus agro currently covers about 50 markets in 17 states across the country providing price information for various agricultural and food produces and widening the reach of the rural and small holder farmers," she said.

She said the company usually collects and collates commodities prices and analyses them for trend in order to help monitor fluctuations and notify stakeholders of current going market prices.

"We also produce the commodity index which is usually published in some Nigerian daily newspapers. It is the average food prices for a particular week against the prices of the previous week," she added.

She explained that prices are usually monitored and passed along the value chain from the farmers to the processors, exporters and consumers who then have access to them, and added that the company, which has been in existence for the past three years, also provides this information via the internet and not just through mobile phones.

"Our subscribers do get SMS alerts depending on the interval they choose which could be daily, weekly or monthly alerting them on the current prices of commodities. We believe that price information is vital for virtually everybody from the housewife that wants to know the cost of food items before leaving home for the market to the exporter who wants to know where he can buy the cheapest," she said.

Another representative of the company, Victoria Ononoju, noted that the company was out to power agriculture with technology and urged farmers to embrace the use of mobile phones in getting information out to their market and also to get feedback from them.

According to her, phone technology is a revolution that will also lead to the upgrading of standards for buyers and sellers as more consumers are bent on buying only the best and substandard commodities continue to be discounted in the market.

She stressed that it was important for farmers to adopt the use of best practices in the cultivation and processing of their commodities in order to add more value to what they produce and get higher prices for them.

Ononoju stressed the importance of collaborating with government and various commodity associations across the country in order to ensure that grades and standards of commodities are raised to globally accepted levels.

"We are looking forward to partnering with the ministry of agriculture under the proposed mobile phones for farmers project in providing relevant contents to the farmers. There will be no need to re-invent the wheel as we are already providing these services and have been reaching out to farmers in the rural areas," she said.

She disclosed that the company has conducted various pilot programmes across the country and have signed partnership agreements with processors, exporters and other farmers' based organisations to promote trade facilitation between farmers and raw materials users.

"We will continue to add value to our agricultural sector in line with the present administrations agenda to transform the sector from mere farming to agric-business because it is time for Nigerian farmers to get their adequate due," she said.

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