ICT Minister Underscores Importance Of Affording Farmers Direct Access To Markets

Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 03, 2020 (SKNIS): The use of technology has made farmers more accessible to buyers. As such, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett, said that it is important for farmers to have direct and good access to lucrative markets as this is vital for farmers to be profitable and productive.

According to Minister Byron-Nisbett, studies have found that digital platforms offer opportunities for micro and macro agricultural companies to expand direct access to buyers. Factoring in economies of scale, there are notable savings that are realized as it relates to aggregating and transporting goods. These savings are available to reinvest into the business to enhance production and productivity via new equipment and workers.

“This, therefore, means that it would be important for all farmers to be able to have direct access, the kind of access that technology can provide and to do so it becomes even more imperative that countries ensure access to farmers, especially in the rural areas where most of the farmers in our region are located,” said Minister Byron-Nisbett during her recent virtual presentation at the launch of the Study on “Rural Connectivity in Latin America and the Caribbean – A Bridge to Sustainable Development during a Pandemic.”

Minister Byron-Nisbett reflected on the success stories in Belgium, and the rural areas of India and Africa where farmers have been able to connect directly to markets using technology.

“With all other industries connecting to markets using technology, agriculture should not be any different. In recent times we have been seeing that consumers are buying into the “farm to table” idea as more and more consumers prefer to be able to have access to fresh produce.”

The minister shed some light on what has been done in the Federation to link agriculture and technology.

“In St. Kitts and Nevis, our department of agriculture collaborated with the department of technology to create a website that allows our farmers to have direct access to consumers by giving them the option to upload their produce list in real-time and then allow consumers to purchase directly from farmers through this means,” she said. “…In developing the website, the Ministry ensured that farmers would be able to access the site using their mobile phones. We will admit that there is still some work to be done to encourage more of our farmers to use the service available and that comes with more education and training as to the use of this service.”

In addition to what the Ministry has provided, several farmers have taken the initiative to utilize social media to connect with consumers. They are using social media platforms to promote their farm tours, which offer consumers the option to purchase produce. Minister Byron-Nisbett said, “This is possible because of the level of access provided.”

She stated that “while the urban/rural divide in the Federation may not be as pronounced as it is in some other countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region”, the examples given show what is possible and the importance now more than ever for countries to ensure access to all.

Additionally, she noted that the internet offers a world of opportunities to connect with people globally. The potential of such became even more evident with the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Persons and businesses exploited technology to maintain contact with family and friends and conduct business with clients, suppliers, manufacturers, retailers to name a few. Local farmers should capitalize on this enhanced thrust to benefit their business and fill gaps caused by the pandemic to increase their food supply distribution

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