E-Commerce Giant Amazon Bans Foreign Seeds In USA After Potential ‘Brushing’ Scam That Could Impact Local Agriculture

10 Sep, 2020

After thousands of packets of seeds mysteriously arrived via mail at American homes all over the country in July, the e-commerce retail company Amazon has banned the sale of foreign seeds and plants in the US in order to avoid any negative consequences on indigenous agriculture. In e-commerce, sales transactions occur between retailers and their customers through the use of information technology including telephones and the internet, and delivery of merchandise is typically done through mail or couriers. The e-commerce industry also includes direct mailers who are selling their merchandise and retailing through online websites.

In the United States, Amazon has now barred the selling and purchasing of imported seeds. Unsolicited packets of seeds appearing to be from China were received in large numbers, likely as a ‘brushing’ scam, in which inexpensive items are ‘sold’ and thereby these ‘sales’ can be used to write phony positive reviews of products. However, to avoid future harm from such agricultural smuggling – which could result in invasive species, pests, seed-borne viruses or other diseases – the US Department of Agriculture is working with ecommerce companies remove online sellers that are engaging in illegal activity and ensure that sellers on their platforms are complying with USDA regulations.

Similarly, other stringent regulations and vertical restraints imposed on the e-commerce sector are expected to limit the growth of the e-commerce industry in the near future. Vertical restraints such as across platforms parity agreements (APPA), geo-blocking, most favored nation (MFN), geo-filtering, and advertising restrictions is to act as a major challenge for e-commerce players. This control on functioning and advertising makes it difficult for e-commerce players to manage their operations, thus adversely impacting the growth of the e-commerce industry.

However, the growing usage of the internet and smartphones is shifting consumer preferences towards online shopping. This rising internet penetration and the growing use of smartphones are predicted to contribute to the growth of the global e-commerce market. According to Global Market Model estimates, it is expected to grow from $1.81 trillion in 2019 to about $2.41 trillion in 2020. Due to COVID-19, there is a large increase in the demand for essential supplies such as food, medicine, hand sanitizers, tissue, and disinfectants. With people avoiding visiting marketplaces and preferring to stay indoors during the pandemic, the online or e-commerce market is seeing significant growth. The market is expected to stabilize and reach $3.05 trillion at a CAGR of 14% through 2023.