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Sat, 30 August 2014 01:12:41
Sri Lanka farmers get mobile phone trade service
23 Dec, 2009 14:23:33
Dec 23, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka's top celco Dialog Telekom is offering a trading platform based on short message services (SMS) that can help farmers to sell their produce and create a forward market for agriculture produce, officials said.
"The Dialog TradeNet agricultural trading platform service is offered free of charge to users, but normal call charges and SMS charges will apply," Hans Wijayasuriya, chief executive at Dialog Telekom, said.

"We want to penetrate the entire farming community with this service."

Mobile Help

TradeNet was jointly developed by Dialog Telekom and the agriculture research arm of South Asian think tank LIRNEasia called 'Govi Gnana Seva' (GGS).

Consumer affairs minister Bandula Gunawardena said the service will be offered in the agriculture economic centre of Dambulla, in the north-central farming region, as well as at Narahenpita, a Colombo suburb where there is a farm produce outlet.

"We want to expend this service to other (agriculture) economic centres as well."

The SMS service is offered in English, Sinhala and Tamil, the three languages spoken in the island, on mobile phones that have the unicode function, Sameera Wijerathna at Dialog Telekom said.

The unicode system supports fonts from other languages and helps to open up SMS dialog between different communities that are not literate in English.

Phones that don't have the unicode function will deliver SMS's in 'Singlish', he said.

Singlish is messaging Sinhala words typed in English fonts used popularly in urban and some rural areas of the country as Sinhala and Tamil font messaging service are still not available.

Traders in Colombo can access prices via the internet in all three languages, Sameera said.

The service is somewhat similar to one launched by Reuters, a financial news services provider, for Indian farmers in 2007, called Reuter's Market Light.

Ranjith Pawar of Reuter's Market Light told delegates at a recent international telco forum organized by LIRNEasia in Colombo that after the service was offered farmer incomes had gone up by 40 percent.

This was because 'wastage and middleman' that eat into profits were nearly eliminated, he said.

Rohan Samarajiva, head of LIRNEasia, said some features that have been built into the system are not available in similar services.

"If the price hits a target price the SMS will get activated," Samarajiva said. "This is a unique feature in this system."

A lot of agriculture produce is wasted in Sri Lanka because of being cultivated at wrong times, poor storage and transport services and limited shelf life, Harsha De Silva, lead economist at LIRNEasia and founder director GGS said.

"We hope TradeNet will pave the way to develop a futures market for agri-produce in Sri Lanka," De Silva said. "Like what we have in the US market."

Sad Story

Sri Lanka farming community accounts for over 50 percent of the workforce but are mostly poor, despite being given subsidies and handouts by governments seeking their votes.

A glut in agriculture produce during harvest time drives prices down and the excess produce is often thrown away, which can be eliminated by linking cultivation with the point of sale through better information flows, De Silva said.

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