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Fruit Farmers of China Earning Millions from Livestreaming & Bitesize Videos

M Kanika
M Kanika
Fruit Farmer of China
Fruit Farmer of China

In the year 2018, village-born Jin Guowei was knee-deep in debt and was peddling fruits to the tourists in streets of Lijiang, Yunnan. Today, he has become an Internet sensation, known by the name Brother Pomegranate, with 7.3 million followers & 300 million yuan ($46 million) of sales in the year 2020. He once sold about 6-million-yuan worth of pomegranates in just 20 minutes.

This is the growing trend of rural entrepreneurship in China. Farmers & agricultural vendors of remote provinces sell goods directly to the urban consumers via interactive livestreams & bite-sized videos. The revenues were generated by the rural content creators on ByteDance Ltd.'s Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese twin have grown 15-folds year-on-year.

Yet another farmer named Guo Chengcheng interacted with her 2.5 million Douyin fans from her family fields, harvesting crops while viewers tap a link on screen to buy the produce. The video clips that she posted have spotlighted everything from mini pumpkins to wild peaches, many planted by fellow villagers. Earlier she sold through the Tencent Holdings Limited, it’s a merchant program on WeChat, making about hundred orders a day. And, now she takes around 50,000 orders per livestream and she is earning 9 million yuan a month in sales.

Guo and Brother Pomegranate are part of the counterflow of migrants, who are heading back to the countryside after decades of exodus to cities. Douyin says that 54% of its rural influencers are 'fanxiang qingnian,' or returning youth.

Secret behind earning millions

That shift gained momentum during the pandemic, which forced more than 23 million of migrant workers to stay in hometowns. The transportation system of nation was ground to halt, agricultural produce languished in storage. At the same time, consumers were stuck at home and were cooking more than ever. The demand for online fresh groceries soared & social commerce offered the small-scale farmers a low-cost way to become an entrepreneur.

Online journey

In villages, most of the routine moments of life pose as fodder for interesting visual content. This doesn’t happen in cities. More than 100,000 farmers have streamed 2.52 million sessions on Alibaba Group's Taobao Live in the year end in March. The agricultural content creators of Douyin have more than 10,000 followers that rose six-fold in 2019 to 2020 from the year before.

Fruits
Fruits

To transport the produce, farmers have to rely on logistics arms of big e-commerce companies such as JD Logistics or Alibaba's Cainiao, or use specialists like SF Express. Selling directly exposes them to more risk, especially from customers who demand refund for the damaged goods. The growing competition and higher costs for refrigerated delivery also eroded margins, but gains from increased orders & loyal customer base more than compensate for trouble.

The e-commerce experts & live streamers say that “secret to success is a mix of city dwellers' nostalgia for nature, distrust in the traditional markets because of food safety scandals, and entertainment of watching the unique rustic personalities.

China growers have added support of the state. As Communist Party marks its centenary this month, it's championing revitalization of san nong, the three issues of agriculture, rural areas & farmers. In guidelines issued on 11th May, the government called for the expansion of e-commerce coverage of villages to boost the income of farmers.

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in China, employing a quarter of labor force, said Hao Liang, an associate professor of finance at Singapore Management University, who studies the China's e-commerce. "Such market in line with China's national strategy of inclusive growth.

Prediction by China Agricultural University

The rural e-commerce talent shortage is expected to increase by 61.3% to the 3.5 million people in the year 2025, China Agricultural University’s researchers have predicted. Douyin & rivals are intent on filling gap. We "will further support creation of 'san nong' content," said Douyin spokesperson. The "Farmers have higher margin when they sell directly to the customers." The challenge for livestreaming farmers is to retain the fans in fickle market by finding the right blend of healthy produce, attractive, bucolic scenery & entertainment.

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