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Farmers in Shaanxi use e-commerce platforms to move products during COVID-19 outbreak by Zhao Binyu,July 02, 2020 Adjust font size:

The sudden COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in numerous problems for Chinese farmers, such as falling demand and complications created by restrictions imposed on transportation, which has resulted in a surplus of agricultural products in some parts of the country. Shaanxi province only recently emerged from poverty, but residents of its mountainous regions were once again under considerable economic pressure as a result of the pandemic. Luckily e-commerce platforms have made it possible for farmers to expand their sales channels and overcome the impact of the outbreak.

Government officials become live stream salesmen for farmers

Chen Lian, magistrate of Ziyang county, Shaanxi, was recently sipping tea at a garden in Yingliang village while pinching tea leaves between her fingers in front of some webcams. She was using a live stream platform to introduce the tea from the area to people all over the country.

Ziyang is known for its tea industry. The plant was being grown on 16,000 ha of land in the county at the end of 2019, which resulted in a yield of 7,538 tons of leaves and 4.34 billion yuan (US$613.68 million) of output value annually. One hundred twenty thousand farmers in the territory work in the industry.

The period before and after Tomb-Sweeping Day, which is two weeks after the vernal equinox, is Ziyang’s peak tea harvest and sales season. The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in sales channels contracting and fewer merchants selling their products around this year’s holiday. E-commerce and live streaming platforms were eventually harnessed to move products.

Ziyang’s tea industry has not been affected much by the pandemic now that various e-commerce platforms are being used more,” Ziyang Tea Development Co. Ltd. Chairperson Nie Wang explained. Cultural tourism has also been developing in the county. Our online tea garden and live streamed tea selection system have been welcomed by netizens and have played a positive role in promoting our products.”

The internet also made it possible for Ziyang’s spring tea garden opening ceremony to kick off as scheduled this year. Many buyers purchased products online over the course of the weekend event. Xie Zhiai lives in the county and has managed a tea garden for 30 years. She mentioned that e-commerce makes it easier for her to sell her products. 

A QR code helps farmers with their problems

Veteran Yang Kun returned to his hometown in Shaanxi’s Zhouzhi county three years ago and has continued living there ever since. He currently runs a kiwi firm in Shangjie village, Louguan town. Yang stated: “Local farmers trust my ability to help them sell their fruit as quickly as possible.”

Kiwi vines are currently grown on 28,800 ha of land in Zhouzhi. About 530,000 tons of the fruit are produced each year at present, which translate to output value of more than 5.3 billion yuan (US$749.42 million) and more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,414) of income per capita.

Yang explained: The period of Chinese lunar new year celebrations is peak fruit consumption season. We usually sell at least 250,000 kg of kiwifruit during this interval. This year was different, however. Our fruit was being refrigerated as a result of the complications that the COVID-19 outbreak caused, and our cold storage units began to reach their capacity. I happened to see a QR code for an e-commerce platform that was established by the Pingduoduo e-commerce company to help farmers overcome the impact of the pandemic on the internet. I scanned it and filled in information about our fruit and our situation. Then I communicated with customer service staff and soon had my own priority sales channel.”

Logistics resumed on February 20, and Yang’s fruit began selling well. He received about 20,000 orders per day for a total of about 25,000 kg of kiwifruit. Yang’s company began employing local farmers to pack the crop and load the trucks that transport it, which helps them increase their incomes.

E-commerce has made it possible to rapidly address the difficulties that local farmers have had selling their fruit. Zhouzhi has also donated kiwis to Hubei province to show their solidarity with the people there who had been hardly hit by the pandemic.

Shiitake mushroom industry helps farmers increase incomes

Liu Daohua is the Yangqiao village Party branch secretary, and director of the village cooperative 

in Qingyouhe  town, Shangnan county. His organization has been the top-selling mushroom producer in China on a certain e-commerce system for more than a month in a row.

Staff working at some e-commerce platforms have proactively connected with cooperatives in the Qinba mountains region in order to provide them with various methods to sell their mushrooms, which has greatly decreased the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their members. Liu stated that the fresh mushrooms that his organization has on hand have sold well. He also said that some had to be dried as a result of difficulties with logistics but that they are also being sold online.  

The internet makes it possible for us to sell diverse products across flexible channels,” Liu stated proudly. “We began making fresh mushrooms available online after temporarily suspending operations as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and immediately experienced a surge of demand. We have sold 25,000 kg of mushrooms so far, which are two-thirds of all of the mushrooms that have been produced within Qinyouhe.”

Data maintained by the Pinduoduo indicates that the platform has recently experienced a 132 percent increase in orders for agricultural products from Shaanxi compared with the same period in 2019 and that apples and kiwis have been most popular items. Tea, mushrooms, and walnuts from southern Shaanxi; sweet potatoes and pears from the province’s central region; and jujubes from its northern region have also been popular. Agricultural products originating from Shaanxi accounted for 10.2 percent of all sales on the platform as of March 25. 

“E-commerce and live streaming platforms have made it possible for our organizations to become top suppliers of agricultural products in China, despite the fact that we are located deep in the Qinba mountains region,” Liu said confidently. “Farmers living in the area are able to increase their incomes by selling their goods online, even during the pandemic period.

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