At Sri Lanka’s largest agricultural market a large projection screen overlooks 12 acres of stalls brimming with produce.
Traders at the Dambulla market consult the screen to receive up-to-the-minute pricing information on produce being sold in the market.
This information helps them negotiate fair prices at any of the market’s 144 booths, says Harsha de Silva, head economist at Sri Lanka-based LIRNEasia, a non-profit organization and IDRC partner that aims to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the lives of Asia’s people.
In the case of the Dambulla market traders, de Silva says farmers can negotiate from a stronger position because information is accessible.
Such information is vital to ensuring agricultural markets work efficiently because it helps farmers reduce their transaction costs, according to de Silva.
But most research in developing countries has focused on helping farmers access information at the end of the production cycle — like the Dambulla market price screen, says de Silva. “We always focus on the selling stage… prices are important, but what about the information that comes before the point of selling?”
He says farmers can use information available at the market to negotiate a better price for eggplant, but if there was more information available before planting crops, they might decide that onions would be a more profitable choice. This type of price projection information — common in developed countries via the Internet — is not readily available to rural farmers in developing countries, says de Silva.
Read the full story by Angela Pereira at IDRC.ca here.