AN ONLINE portal for Philippine farmers recorded close to three billion pesos worth of transactions two years after it was launched, officials told INQ7.net.
The portal, known as b2bpricenow.com, is currently the biggest virtual community of local merchants trading agricultural products and services.
The portal is a result of the collaboration between Edgardo Herbosa, founder of the Philippine portal, Landbank and Unisys Corp.
Herbosa previously stated that close to 700 farmer cooperatives have participated in the trading within the portal.
Currently, the portal aims to target 3,700 farmer cooperatives (with each cooperative representing 15,000 people) under the wings of Landbank.
In a separate interview, Mauricio Feliciano, assistant vice president of Landbank's Development Assistance Department, said that the government depository bank has been conducting a nationwide roadshow to attract more farmer cooperatives to join the online trading.
The website now allows farmers to post and search for the latest pricing on different agricultural products and services, all for free.
This year, b2bpricenow.com and Landbank officials said that the portal will begin charging minimal fees for every transaction entered into the website through a proposed online payment facility.
Feliciano said that Landbank is currently looking at outsourcing development of a payment gateway that will "capture transactions online."
Herbosa, however, told INQ7.net that Unisys Corp. is offering a "free" payment gateway to Landbank, in exchange for a minimal share in transaction fees collected via the portal.
Landbank intends to have the online payment system available to the farmer cooperatives within the year.
The system will allow transactions to be settled online, but the actual cost be debited from Landbank, where farmer cooperatives maintain accounts.
"At this time, the portal only allows posting of prices, while actual transactions are settled offline," Feliciano added.
Herbosa, for his part, said that the original vision of b2bpricenow.com is to first create content, which today it has: worth 3 billion pesos. The next step is to increase adoption of the portal.
With a grant from the World Bank, b2bpricenow has been working with Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) in the planned purchase of computer hardware for cooperatives in the country's rural areas.
B2Bpricenow.com, with the help of Landbank, is also planning to establish public Internet facilities for cooperatives participating in the online trading.
Each public Internet facility will cost around one million pesos, said Feliciano.
"This is essentially a marketing tool for Landbank to recover its loans to farmer cooperatives. If farmers are able to sell their goods online, then they will be able to pay their loans back. With more revenues, we in turn could reach out to more cooperatives," added Feliciano.