E-commerce proves fruitful for farmers

Clad in the beaten-silver headdress and deep blue traditional garb of her Miao people, Ms Duan Shenyue poses with a rattan basket filled with "Mayang rock candy" oranges - named for their sweetness and the county in Hunan province where the citrus fruit is grown.

"I hope you will try our organic oranges which are grown without any pesticides," the 32-year-old said, flanked by photos of the fruit ripening in the orchards.

"Without boasting or misleading, I believe good products like ours will win over everyone's confidence," she added.

Her advertisement on the Taobao online marketplace sits next to a myriad others for red dates from Shanxi province, pineapples and coconuts from Hainan island, guavas from Fujian province and blood oranges from Hubei province.

The growth of e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and Jingdong has rejuvenated China's agricultural plains, helping to link farmers directly with distant consumers while handling logistics and cutting out the middleman.

Ms Duan Shenyue advertising her oranges on Taobao. The Chinese consumer's desire to find out the source of the product has led to more farmers putting a face to their goods.
Ms Duan Shenyue advertising her oranges on Taobao. The Chinese consumer's desire to find out the source of the product has led to more farmers putting a face to their goods. PHOTO: TAOBAO

Online retail sales in China reached 5.16 trillion yuan (S$1 billion) last year, up 26 per cent from 2015's figure and twice the pace of overall retail sales, said the National Bureau of Statistics.

The Chinese consumer's desire to find out where products come from and how they are grown has led to more farmers like Ms Duan putting a face to their goods.

It has also led to Taobao starting, last December, livestreaming broadcasts where farmers walk potential buyers through their fields and the harvest cycle of their produce.

Another orange farmer, Mr Wang Yongsong from Hunan, learnt the power of livestreaming after trying it for the first time last year.

Seconds after he went live, 20,000 people were tuned in, and the orders started pouring in.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'E-commerce proves fruitful for farmers'. Print Edition | Subscribe