Reuters mobile services for farmers

Written by Bureaus | Pune, Oct 1 | Updated: Oct 2 2007, 06:20am hrs
Farmers in Maharashtra will now access crop pricing information, news and weather updates in local languages on their cell phones. Reuters has selected Pune for the global launch of its mobile information service Reuters Market Light (RML). The service will be available on all GSM phones.

Market Light will be extended to four states next year and Reuters will take this service to African countries and China after they reach a critical mass of two million subscribers in India, Amit Mehra, MD, RML said. Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar formally launched the service in Pune on Monday.

RML has shifted its global headquarters from London to Mumbai because the service was piloted in India. Rosemary Martin, member-Reuters Board, said that they chose to launch the service in India since it was one of the biggest agricultural markets globally.

An operational centre will be coming up at Pune to oversee rollouts in Maharashtra soon. The total project cost is estimated at $15 million to $16 million of which $2 million has already been invested. RML is expected to help farmers achieve better prices and timely information on weather and inputs.

RML has signed an agreement with Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB), which enables them to collect price information and volume traded from any of the 294 Agriculture Market Produce Committees (APMCs) in the state. At present RML has access to information from 30 APMCs. This will be extended to 60 APMCs by the end of the year.

The service that was piloted in Vidharba and Marathwada in April this year, already has a subscriber base of 7,500 farmers. They pay Rs 60 per month to access information on their cell phones. The target this year is to reach out to 30,000 subscribers by the year-end, Mehra said. Updates are offered twice a day on onion and maize. Another 11 crops will be added to the service by the year-end.

RML will pilot a service facilitating transactions by connecting farmers with buyers and traders through their cell phones. Mehra said the service is available on GSM and not CDMA, as it did not support local language content.