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Farmers risk being ‘left behind’ by online marketplaces, warns expert

Farmers have been told they risk being left behind by online marketplaces. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Farmers have been told they risk being left behind by online marketplaces. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Agricultural businesses which haven’t kept pace with digital development are missing out on the benefits of online marketplaces, East Anglian farmers were told.

About 60 Norfolk and Suffolk farmers attended a discussion event in Halesworth hosted by accountancy firm Lovewell Blake and the Suffolk Coastal branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

Patrick Bidwell, business manager at Hectare Agritech, the firm behind two of the UK’s leading digital agricultural marketplaces, told the audience that analogue supply chains are stifling innovation, and do not bring the transparency, the financial benefits and the wider buyer/seller connections that digital marketplaces can bring.

“Using an online marketplace rather than the more traditional phone-based trading techniques gives farmers access to a much bigger pool of merchants and buyers, and that potentially enables them to achieve better prices by connecting them with merchants they wouldn’t otherwise come into contact with,” he said.

“When it comes to selling livestock, there are other advantages too, not least the cost savings of not having to physically take livestock to market.

“Whilst online grain trading tends to be mainly with merchants, the online livestock marketplace is much more peer-to-peer, enabling farmers to connect with potential buyers and sellers throughout the country.”

Hectare Agritech has two of the UK’s leading online marketplaces, Graindex, which has over 33,000 active users, and SellMyLivestock, which has over 10,000 head listed at any one time. Between them they make up the fourth most-clicked agricultural website in the UK.

“The idea is actually quite a traditional one,” said Mr Bidwell. “It’s akin to the old idea of a corn exchange, which brought together buyers and sellers in one convenient location. It’s just that its reach is far greater.

“Farmers who have not considered trading in this way risk being left behind, receiving lower prices for their outputs, and potentially seeing the old, analogue way of trading disappearing altogether.”

The next Farmers’ Evening takes place on December 5, when John Theobald of Rattlerow will look at genetics and other ‘go forward’ elements of pig production. For more details see www.lovewell-blake.co.uk/events.

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