Reuters goes rural, empowers Maharashtra farmers

Reuters goes rural, empowers Maharashtra farmers

Global news agency Reuters on Monday kicked off a mobile information service in Maharashtra that will provide thousands of farmers in the state with critical information about commodity prices, weather forecasts and other important news, in their native language. The agency inaugurated the service in Pune and announced that it would soon pilot another service to facilitate transactions by connecting farmers with buyers such as retail chains and traders through text messages on their mobile phones. The new service is being offered by Reuters Market Light (RML), a Reuters division in India.

The service will be extended to 60 markets in Maharashtra by the end of this year and to other states such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Punjab next year. RML plans to be establish a presence in 300 markets by the end of next year. The service, the first of its kind being offered anywhere in the world, will eventually be extended to other emerging markets, Amit Mehra, managing director, RML, said.

With over 7,500 farmers already having signed up, the project is initially being rolled out as a paid service in the state. Later it will be taken across India to cater to 250 million farmers.

"The farming community in India is one of the largest in the world. But despite its size it remains a relatively opaque market. The rural and often remote nature of the community makes it incredibly difficult for farmers, especially those with small holdings, to get even the most basic information," Mehra said.

The information, which will cost the farmer Rs60 a month, will help him achieve better yields by providing him with accurate weather forecasts and secure better prices by providing him with the local price of produce such as onion, cotton, soybean, pulses, pomegranates and oranges. RML will invest at least $16 million (Rs63.52 crore) over the next two years to introduce mobile news and other facilities. "This would help farmers enhance their crop yields and improve productivity," Mehra said.

RML plans to take the service to other countries and economies that are largely agrarian, Ranjit Pawar, vice-president, operations, said. "There is potential for such a service in China, Brazil and some African countries," he added.