19 June 2001
Internet popular — but not for trading
By Donald MacPhail
FARMERS and agricultural businesses make extensive use of the internet but are unlikely to trade with each other online, according to new research.
A survey of FWi farmer users found that 67% use the internet every day, with e-mail, farming and general news and weather the most popular uses.
One in three shop online, the study by internet solutions company DBT and FWIfound.
But farmers are more likely to buy computers and holidays online rather than fertiliser or feed.
And while more than 80% of UK agricultural businesses which responded to part of the survey have websites, only 2% use the internet for trading.
However, the future may be brighter for agri e-business as both farmers and businesses predict more online trading in the next 12 months.
Some 76% of businesses believed more farmers will soon buy online and 81% of farmers who have not bought online but said they would do so.
Fertilisers, spare parts, animal health, books, and agrochemicals were the items they were most likely to buy.
On the 479 farmers surveyed 34% have bought online. Of these 56% had bought PCs, 53% purchased books and 44% booked holidays.
Animal health products were the most popular farming supplies with sales to 21%, but fertilisers, seeds, feed and livestock all recorded single figures.
But only eight per cent would not buy online, citing security fears and lack of personal contact as deterrents.
Producers were more reluctant to sell online, the survey showed. Just 11% had sold online, mostly meat and dairy products to consumers.
Some 17% said they would not consider selling online.
Of 240 businesses surveyed, 82% have a website. Some 56% saw it as a communications tool, 23% as a distribution channel.
Low prices, user-friendly systems, assurances on security and product availability would encourage more farmers to buy online they believed.
The survey also revealed that FWI was the most popular website, followed by the Ministry of Agriculture and National Farmers Union.
And almost 90% of farmers surveyed said they would like to receive pest or disease alerts by email or mobile.
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