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Abstract

Digital platforms for buying and selling agricultural commodities have generated significant interest in the trade literature as a way to link rural communities to the Internet. Yet, the extent to which these digital platforms actually translate into higher commodity prices for producers remains an open research question. We investigate this question by comparing transaction data on trading various grades of coffee from a recently implemented digital platform in India with similar transactions from a physical commodity auction held weekly, and farm-gate prices in the coffee producing regions of India. Although the digital platform prices closely track the physical commodity auction prices, producers obtain significantly higher prices when they sell the commodity through the digital platform rather than at the farm-gate through brokers who operate in their regions. However, coffee grades with higher price volatility and premium coffee grades that require face-to-face interactions to verify quality obtain lower prices on the digital platform. Our results also indicate that market participants who control the transaction obtain better prices. We discuss the implications of our findings for governments and platform providers.

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