Indian farmers and mobile phones
July 23rd, 2006

This Times Online article says “for centuries, Indian farmers have relied on ancient rituals, the study of wind direction and local gossip to ascertain the annual onset of the unpredictable monsoon rains”,however, “technology is coming to the aid of farmers whose livelihood depends on the quality of the heavy rains that fall periodically between June and September.Under a pilot scheme to be launched this week by Reuters, the news and data provider, farmers will be able to receive accurate weather forecasts and local price information direct to their mobile phones. The local-language text message service will be offered to 200 farmers in five markets in the state of Maharashtra, of which Bombay is the capital, whose crops are soya bean and tur, a type of pulse. If the trial is successful, the target market for a commercial roll-out of the service is about 50 million relatively wealthy landowners with three acres or more and an average annual income of $2,000 (£1,000)”. Further,”as well as helping farmers get the best price, more accurate and timely information could also reduce wastage. India is the world’s second- largest producer of fruit and vegetables — of which it produces about 146 million tonnes annually — but more than a third of the fruit rots before it can be eaten. This wasted produce is worth an estimated $12 billion.’There are so many inefficiencies in the market,’ Amit Mehra, Reuters’ project leader, said. The service initially will be constrained by the patchy mobile-phone coverage in rural areas. Less than 2 per cent of the 100 million mobile phones in India are owned by the agricultural population — about 650 million people”.

India’s farmers switch faith to mobile phones


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