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Mobile Markets

About sixteen percent of the rural population in developing countries lacks convenient access to markets (World Food Program, 2009). Many of these people are farmers who must travel long distances in order to sell their produce, which results in great quantities of food spoiled along the way. Also, the lack of markets means that people do not have immediate access to food. Building market facilities in remote villages would be costly as well as ineffective, because the supply and demand pool would be limited to locals.  A solution to the distribution problem is  mobile markets: centralized markets which allow a large population to exchange goods without having to travel great distances. The fundamental purpose of the mobile markets is to shorten the distance that farmers must travel  in order to sell their produce in public-accessible markets. station

Figure 1. Simplication of the mobile market system


Mobile markets are essentially traveling farmer markets that bring commerce to communities. Markets can travel on trains, trucks, or any other means of transportation. They will consist of multiple vendors traveling on board and trading with rural farmers at each station. Ideally, any particular route of a mobile market will loop through several remote villages and a few cities over a period of a few days to a week. Mobile market vendors will purchase produce from farmers of one village, and then travel to the next, where they may trade the goods with a different group of farmers. The farmers will not travel but will gain access to foreign goods through the mobile markets. Effectively, the mobile market will make more food available to more people by connecting them together.

Surplus produce from the villages will be accounted for once the mobile market reaches a city. In the city will be a storage warehouse--potentially cold storage—in which the food can be stored for later distribution. This way, the mobile market facilitates large scale storage of produced food in large cities, reducing the number of warehouses that otherwise are needed to store the produce from all the remote communities and thus saving construction and energy costs. The mobile market may also incorporate its own small cold storage system to store perishable food over long traveling distances. 

Beside food, the mobile market can also be used as a mean to distribute seeds, fertilizers and other farming needs to enhance agricultural production. In addition, the mobile markets may provide information about weather forecasts, farming technology, food prices, etc. to help farmers make informed decisions about production and sales. 

India is the top candidate for the implementation of mobile markets and the rest of South East Asia also has the potential. The only requirement for this plan is a widespread transportation system; therefore, this plan can be implemented in places where the system exists or where funding for transportation is available. India’s extensive railroad network makes an ideal example.

Figure 2. Indian Railways Map

Retrieved Novermber 24, 2010 from


The mobile markets will be operated by private or public corporations jointly with the country’s transportation agency. The transportation agency of the country will provide the technology required while the other organizations involved will administer the business. Mobile market venders, who perform similar tasks to those of middle persons, can be individuals or interested private companies. The administering cooperation and the transportation agency will receive subsidies from local government and international organizations like the UN as well as rent from vendors, while mobile market vendors will enjoy the benefit of trade with local farmers. International organizations like the UN will be persuaded to contribute seed funding as needed and local governments will provide subsidies as they do for other public transportation systems. To avoid corruption and conspiracy of the vendors, the owner cooperation needs to keep track of the transactions made. This cooperation will also provide the educational information to farmers.

Figure 3. How Mobile Market works

Note: MM stands for Mobile Markets. The administrating coorporation performs independently from the transporation agency which is often closely related to the government in order to avoid corruption.


In the case of India, we suggest that Indian Railways, which currently runs the entire railroad network of India, provides technology for a private company who will implement the mobile market on the network. Lately, Indian Railways has set up special trains for perishable foods and temperature-controlled cargo centers in an effort to reduce food wastage, which shows that the required technology exists and that the institution is willing to contribute (“Railways”, 2009).

The mobile market is a long-term solution. In terms of timescale, all the required technology already exists; therefore, this plan can be immediately implemented once the details are determined in contracts among all parties involved, which will take up to a few years. We suggest that the mobile market first be experimented in India, and if successful, it can later be expanded to other places in Southeast Asia and Africa. However, the effectiveness of the project should be constantly evaluated.

One of the remaining issues concerning the mobile market is that farmers still need access to public transport stations. The mobile market will shorten the distance the farmers travel to markets but will not provide the means of traveling. Providing trucks, motorcycles, or tricycles may address the issue depending on the quality of the roads connecting them to markets, but more research needs to be done in the area. Another issue is that mobile market administration has the potential to become a monopoly. To prevent the operators from overpricing the farmers, we suggest setting up a fair pricing model.

Works cited: 

Indian Railways Map. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

Railways to set up cold storages, run fruit-vegetable trains. (2009, July 3). Thaindian news. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

World Food Programme. (2009). World Hunger Series Hunger and Markets. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,1477/Itemid,98/