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Jul. 08, 2022

Experts share innovations and applications of agri-food e-commerce

Experts share innovations and applications of agri-food e-commerce

Speakers and participants of the recently held two-day online workshop on “Tropical Fruit Value Chain for Global Market: e Commerce” exchanged knowledge and experiences on agri-food e-commerce development—its challenges, strategies and opportunities for tropical fruit farmers at both the domestic and regional levels.

Agri-food e-commerce has been on the business upswing since the pandemic disrupted everyone’s lives on a global scale. Its high level of success could be attirbuted to factors like high quality harvest, flexible and consistent product-grade packages, well established cold chain treatment from harvest to delivery and customer service. This is one of the major observations of the speakers and participants in the recently concluded FFTC-TARI-Fengshan online workshop on “Tropical Fruit Value Chain for Global Market: e-Commerce.” Held on May 5-6, 2022, top experts in the food industry who attended the event declared that in these pandemic times, direct-to-customers agri-food e-commerce brings more average revenues to producers, compared to traditional channels such as auction markets. They added that in this mobile era, the e-commerce business offers a collaborative opportunity for producers, IT companies and platform managers to trade with customers in a direct way.

Attended by five experts from Belgium, Japan, Korea and Taiwan on its first day, and three lecturers and five farmer representatives on its second day, the two-day online workshop became a healthy exchange of knowledge and experiences on agri-food e-commerce development—its challenges, strategies and opportunities for tropical fruit farmers  at both the domestic and regional levels.

Major highlights

Dr. Fan-Chan Tai, DG of the International Digital Commerce Research Division of CDRI proposed three development strategies to further improve the inadequacies of the agri-food e-commerce service. These are: the application of social platform and livestreaming technologies; the building of the online version of farmer’s markets; and the building of warehouses as infrastructure for agri-food e-commerce.

Mr. Choi Hando, Senior Leader of the CEO Office of Market Kurly, Korea, talked about his experience of being a pioneer in online grocery retailing, their struggles, difficulties, triumphs and achievements and how e-commerce has completely changed the landscape of Korean groceries for the better.
Mr. Shinji Ohta, President and CEO of Creative House, Japan, discussed the market trends and challenges in agri e-commerce in his country. He said that in order to make e-commerce business successful, farmers need to implement an organized platform and operations. He also emphasized that the key drivers for the success of e-commerce are product value, marketing, media control and customer list.

Mr. Sean Chou, Supply Chain Quality and Technical Manager—Greater China Region of Zespri International (Asia) Ltd, in Taiwan, shared his experiences with Zespri company especially the fresh fruit channel share and movement in Taiwan, the key dynamics of the fresh fruit e-commerce, delivery model and efficiency, role of logistics and other shopper insights for e-commerce in the fruit business.

Mr. Patrick Bauwens, BU Manager of E-Trade & Process Control, Aucxis, Belgium, explained how perishable products can be traded in the Business to Business or B2B world using a central auction market concept. Mr. Bauwens also explained how technology can support the auction process and how a digital trading platform could succeed.

Business models

On the second day, which is called the Farmer’s Workshop, 3 speakers and 5 Taiwanese farmer representatives were invited to exchange their experiences on how to initiate, operate, and participate in the agri-food e-commerce. Business models of “Wonderfulfood” and “The Best of Kaohsiung” on private and public platforms, respectively, were demonstrated. A government e-commerce entry training program for farmers was introduced. Five farmer representatives, particularly with experiences in the e-commerce of products like lychee, honey jujube, dragon fruit and mango proved that e-commerce do strengthen purchase requests and bring more revenue by trading directly or indirectly through other e-platforms. The farmer representatives also emphasized the importance of consistent high-quality grading packages, patience for brand establishment, and customer-first service management, in which investment of capital and time are necessary. 

Based on the discussions, the following conclusions and recommendations were drawn: 

  • Capitalize on the potential of the e-commerce business to enhance farmers’ income and entry into global markets;
  • Maintain consistency in quality and supply as this is the key to the success of agri-food e-commerce;
  • Inculcate to farmers to always consider the quality and amount of their harvest and strategically participate in various market channels including auction, wholesales, and e-commerce, to maximize the sales revenue and decrease warehouse pressure and waste;
  • Teach farmers to initiate their own agri-food business by thinking of a good branding strategy as this can overcome the challenges of smallholder farmers’ entry into bigger scale of business; and 
  • Pay attention to disproportional development and progress of e-commerce business among countries as these indicate the necessities of information and experience sharing on e-commerce supporting system including infrastructure, IT, logistics, and joint efforts from the government and private companies.

Clockwise (L-R) At the opening ceremony of the online workshop, FFTC Information Officer Ronald Mangubat introduces FFTC Director Dr. Su-San Chang, Dr. Tain-Tsair Hsu, Chairman of the Board, Commerce Development Research Institute (CDRI) and Dr. Hsueh-Shih Lin, Director General, Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI)

Online discussion on e-commerce services ensued during the presentation of Dr. Fan-Chan Tai, DG, International Digital Commerce Research Division, Commerce Development Research Institute (CDRI), on “Overview of Domestic and International Agri-food E-commerce: Challenges and Opportunities for Asian and Pacific Countries.” (Right) FFTC Director Dr. Su-San Chang joins the discussion


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