The China Post staff
Online shopping for agricultural products has been gaining ground in Taipei this year. Web site operators who can overcome the difficulties in warehousing, logistics, and product specification and who are capable of tapping new clientele are proved to be the first round winners in the craze for shopping fresh food online. With the spreading of the Internet fever, an increasing number of stores featuring fresh products, including fruit, vegetables and flowers, have been popping up in the cyber space since last year. Even a cooperative in a remote village can now be connected to a comprehensive sales network via the Internet. Without any middlemen, these virtual stores usually offer lower prices than their counterparts in the physical world and thus can attract net surfers in Taiwan. However, not all of these Web sites can survive the dot- com fever. For example, local potted flower trading Web site 12flower.com has received 770,00 page views since it was launched 13 months ago. However the number of transactions concluded on were only less than a thousand.
The Web site owner, Taiwan Observational Plants Cooperative (TOPC), noted that 12flower.com accounted for only one percent of the cooperative’s total trade volume. The cooperative believes that the undeveloped product specification for flowers and a sales network limited to the northern Taiwan market discourage consumers from around the island to place orders online. Therefore, TOPC is planning strategic alliances with florists island-wide to provide online shoppers a more diverse array of products. For online fruit and vegetable sellers, warehousing and distribution are the biggest troubles. According to the Taipei Farmers’ Association, as grocery buyers are mostly middle-aged persons who lack knowledge of computer and the Internet, educating customers on the use of computers would also be an important factor to boost online shopping of agricultural products.