FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Smallholder farmers would benefit from an online trading platform, FAO study finds

In the Republic of Moldova, creating a single online trading platform for small-scale agricultural producers could improve sales and market access, thus increase growth and economic competitiveness. Returning migrants could benefit, too, and become agents of change thanks to their digital skills, as well as inspire other farmers who are still reluctant to adopt and use online solutions.

These are the main conclusions of the first feasibility study on the development of an e-commerce platform for small and medium-sized agricultural producers, including returned migrants, in the Republic of Moldova, conducted by FAO.

According to the research, an online trading platform would be a safe option for smallholders to sell their harvest and generate profit, while minimizing dependence on multiple intermediaries, which is indispensable in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that pinpointed the weak points of the economy – farmers being cut off from the market and practically left without income sources.

"The country has the technical knowledge, capabilities, and full potential to create or develop online trading platforms, in line with producers’ needs and market demand," said Victor Guzun, FAO expert on digital business and author of the study. “A common virtual marketplace would have a higher chance of success compared to a multitude of online stores from each producer. That single platform could ensure greater efficiency in terms of promotion, management, maintenance, and continuous development.”

The study also analyzed the creation of a platform developed from scratch and a solution based on one of the existing platforms in the country. It looked into the challenges and constrains of operating the existent platforms,  and proposing a portfolio of interventions needed to ensure the new or existent platforms to be successful.

"Research shows that many smallholder producers lack sufficient skills to conduct online commerce, which means that more attention must be paid to digital education – an important factor in the success of online sales,” concluded Jana Midoni, the project coordinator. “To support skills development, we are planning to launch a series of educational podcasts for returning migrants engaged in agri-business, as well as provide training in digital media.”

The study was conducted in July–August this year, based on 28 interviews with various producers and members of the community of small and medium-sized agricultural producers.

"Farmers interviewed within the study support the idea of creating a single trading platform and there is a consensus on the prospects for increasing online sales, although currently the quantities of agrifood products traded digitally remains insignificant," underlined Adrian Cojocaru, FAO agricultural markets expert and co-oauthor of the study. “This reason is, first of all, that the Republic of Moldova practically lacks the logistical infrastructure necessary for food products to reach from the producer to the buyer safely and in good quality, but also at a reasonable price. Thus, for the online platform to operate, the study foresees a series of interventions that will ensure the sustainable development of online commerce, both for food and non-food products.”

FAO is continuously looking for opportunities to support small-scale agri-producers, including through the adoption of digital tools and technologies.

8 October, 2021, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova