Farmers will be able to receive farm prices through mobile telephones in order to enhance their bargaining power. This new service was announced last week by Dr Adrian Mukhebi, the executive director of the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE), a private firm based in Nairobi. Mukhebi said the firm had entered into discussions with mobile phone providers to enable KACE launch its service.

Farmers will receive information on where to sell their produce or buy inputs such as fertilisers and seeds, he said.He said KACE has field officers based in key agricultural markets in major towns who will be used to provide data on commodity prices on an hourly basis. The new facility is unique as it will enable farmers receive information about market trends and enable them fix prices before selling their crop to middlemen.

"The information will be sent and charged as SMS messages using a special computer programme linked to the mobile phone system," said Mukhebi. He said the service was aimed at benefiting especially small-scale farmers in rural areas where lack of information on where to sell their produce results in unscrupulous traders exploiting them through price manipulation. "Armed with this information, farmers will now increase their bargaining power for better prices," said Mukhebi.

The new technology will also assist consumers who, he said, have often been exploited by middlemen. Mukhebi said institutions that frequently buy food commodities such as schools, colleges, hospitals, hotels and general consumers, will get timely messages through mobile phones.