Log in ....Tribune

Monday, March 10, 2003

Selling agro-products through Web
Rajesh Singh

THERE are unexplored potentials for electronic media in domestic as well as international agricultural marketing. An agricultural producer is facing unrelenting pressure for efficiency, myriad choices and marketing volatility, brought on by discerning consumers, quality- conscious buyers and a global marketplace. In order to compete and thrive in an era of constant change, there is a requirement of a pro-active marketing mindset, an intimate knowledge of production costs and a detailed knowledge of the quality of the commodities produced.

The Internet levels the playing field in agriculture. It allows the disadvantages to compete with advantages, the small to stand on equal footing with the large, those who live in the rural hinterlands to access the same information and worldwide markets as those who live in the cities. The creation of the Internet is ushering in a new era of agricultural marketing using:

(1) Website electronic store fronts or profit centres, or

(2) Database marketing, including Internet commodity catalogues.

The major activities of e-commerce as applicable to agriculture are:

1) Bringing products to market.

2) Networking and communication with the buyers.

3) Delivering electronic goods (e.g., information).

Most important aspects include, interconnectivity, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic funds transfer, e-mail, security, bar coding, smart cards and networking. The e-commerce is a new phenomenon for marketing of agricultural products. There are very few entrants in this area in India. The foremost requirement for successful electronic commerce is the access to market information system. Electronically linked producers and retailers will be able to lower their costs by reducing intermediary transactions because of electronic transactions directly with the consumer.

Online market information system is putting the market information on the Web for the benefit of the farmer. Such a system is successfully running in Maharashtra and would be ready in vernacular language for UP (www.upagrimart.com). The online MIS provides current market rate and arrival, which enables the producer to take the informed, and hence a better decision for selling his produce. The networking concept is applicable to the wide networks of the regulated markets. The networking would facilitate the flow of the market information and this information can be easily updated.

Yet another application of IT in agricultural marketing is developing the booths on the Internet, which would be better understood as virtual shops. These shops would display the catalogue of products, quality, delivery made, payment etc. The site, www.farmersmarketonline.com, is one innovation whereby sellers of variety of products have opened booths.

Auctions on the Internet are much like any auction. Sellers list lot numbers of their agricultural commodity for sale on the database and accurately describe the commodity. Usually, a sale manager conducts the auction, earns a commission from the owner/manager a negotiated fees. If the sales manager doesn’t control the database service himself, interested buyers pre-register before the auction starts. All conditions of sale are publicised prior to the auction and agreed upon by all participants.

Whether agricultural marketeers will participate in e-commerce will depend on a number of factors. First, the producers must ensure that the production supply is stable to meet consumer demand, which requires fast delivery and reliable product quality. Second, the produce must be easily subjected to grading and specification so that price information will reflect its quality and grade. Third, the marketing infrastructures and logistics must be adequate and ready to handle fast order and on-time delivery. Such facilities include storage, transportation, communication, packaging etc.