It is the first state-owned open agricultural marketplace in Bangladesh
In the early part of June, Masud Rana of Rajshahi advertised for selling Himsagar mango in "Food for Nation."
He sold around 15 maunds of mangoes to different buyers through the online platform.
Jahangir Alam, another mango farmer from Rajshahi, has sold mangoes to 50-60 buyers through advertising on this platform. Most of the buyers were from Dhaka and Chattogram.
Food for Nation is the first state-owned open agricultural marketplace in Bangladesh.
All kinds of agricultural products are sold here by individuals and organisational buyers and sellers with the option of free advertisements.
Although it is slowly gaining popularity, many people are unable to sell their products for transportation problems.
It was found that farmers could not sell their produces as the supply chain broke down during the Covid-19 period.
Inaugurated on May 23 this year, this e-commerce site was created primarily to strengthen the supply chain.
Masud Rana said that he had a remarkable response despite it being a new marketplace. However, he said if the platform was a bit more familiar, then he could have reached more buyers.
While talking to the sellers, it was found that the buyers preferred mango and litchi more than other products as this is the season of fruits.
As it is based on a courier service delivery system, fruit delivery is not a troublesome task. But there are some complications in delivering other products.
The prices of the produces are lower as the buyers can have them directly from the producers. But the transportation cost is the troublemaker here. So, the buyers lose interest in dealing through this platform.
Mahidul Islam of Bogura has advertised to sell Miniket rice directly from his rice mill at Tk49 per kilogramme.
The buyers from Dhaka have to pay Tk300 for transporting each rice sack from Bogura. The price of the rice would be Tk55 per kilogramme. But the buyers can have rice from the same price at the shop next to their residences in Dhaka, he said.
Omar Faruque, an owner of rice mill in Rajshahi, echoed Mahidul.
"If the wholesalers purchase a huge amount of rice, they can adjust as it would cost Tk50-60 per sack. But the retail buyers will not have the benefits," he said.
According to the website of Food for Nation, farmers are advertising all kinds of agricultural products ranging from vegetables, lentils, oil, rice, maize, paddy, wheat, onion, garlic, ginger, honey, betel leaf, betel nut, chicken, and even eggs.
Alongside the individual sellers, organisations are also advertising on the platform.
Products could have been sold smoothly, if there were area-based regular transportation systems, said advertisers. And, this would benefit both the buyers and the sellers.
It was also found that this e-commerce platform is a mode of communication among farmers, marketers, stockists, and individual or organisational buyers. They can sell or buy products at a fair price after verifying the prices and quality of products on the same platform.
All types of buyers and sellers associated here can buy all agricultural produces by communicating with the sellers through the mobile phone numbers given in their profiles. Or they can also collect information related to the deal.
They complete transactions by choosing the right mode of payment to pay the price of the products. Mobile financial transaction platforms are playing a lead role in this case.
The platform provides a database of agro traders, daily market prices of crops and agricultural products, and contact numbers of field-level officials of the Department of Agricultural Marketing, and the Department of Agricultural Extension for cooperation.
Asked about the initiative, Mohammad Yusuf, director general of the Department of Agricultural Marketing, told The Business Standard, "Some officials of agricultural marketing have been involved in this. We inform the buyers about the updated prices of the products. However, it is under the a2i (Access to information) programme."
Shahriar Hasan Zisan, e-commerce national consultant of a2i, said that 1,352 users have registered on the platform in the last one month. "There were 1,682 product advertisements on the site," he added.
In the beginning of the platform, 60 tonnes of mangoes, 15 tonnes of vegetables and 166,000 pieces of litchis were supplied to different parts in Dhaka.
With the government initiative, 17 free transport facilities were provided for the goods' transportation. A total of 58 individuals and organisational buyers received the product delivery facility under this initiative.
But the free transport facility is unavailable now.