Profile: Farmer uses online celebrity to boost local fruit sales

Source: Xinhua| 2018-07-25 16:14:36|Editor: ZX
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NANNING, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Gan Youqin, an orchard owner, wears a T-shirt with oversleeves tightly wrapping her tanned arms, her hair tied into ponytails with faded highlights at the tips.

Gan looks ready to toil, but in fact, her field is online where she has more than eight million followers on social media.

She runs a family orchard in Lingshan County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the home of the Chinese Lychee.

As the lychee season ends, Gan's family are busy packing and dispatching dried lychees, while Gan types quickly on her cellphone, receiving orders and interacting with her followers.

Gan has a team in her orchard producing short videos about her country life, documenting her daily activities such as picking fruit, catching fish, pickling cucumbers and cooking for gatherings.

The videos are uploaded to her social media account "Ingenious Ninth Sister," a name inspired by a country girl called the "ninth sister" depicted in a popular Chinese folk song from the 1990s.

In recent years, the online short video industry has developed rapidly in China. "Back then many short video apps became popular, so we decided to have a try," said Zhang Yangcheng, Gan's nephew and a member of her short video team.

Zhang worked for media companies in the cities but returned to his hometown Lingshan last year, asking his Aunt Gan to be the main character of the short videos featuring country life.

At first, Gan was not confident or comfortable facing the camera, sometimes even trying to turn away.

The other villagers did not understand. "As most of us speak the local dialect here, people think we are pretentious speaking in Mandarin when shooting the videos," Zhang said.

As Gan's fame grew, however, she became more confident, acting more naturally before camera, with more followers asking to buy the fruit shown in the videos.

"It never occurred to us that the short videos could help us sell fruit, we just wanted to show our country life," Gan said.

Lingshan County abounds with fruit, including oranges, longan, and granadilla. At the end of last year, Gan's team also helped fellow villagers promote their oranges through her account.

Gan's team estimated that they could help villagers sell more than five tonnes of fruit online, but they sold more than 50 tonnes.

In the first half of 2018, the team has sold more than 1,500 tonnes of fruit, earning 20 million yuan (around 2.98 million U.S. dollars) for herself and the villagers.

Many young people in the village became online followers, and the elderly stopped questioning their work.

The total lychee yield in the county reached 165,000 tonnes this year, and 12,300 tonnes were sold online, with around 350 tonnes sold through Gan's social media account.

Gan and her husband used to be migrant workers in south China's Guangdong Province, but decided to return home to grow fruit in 2008.

"We may earn less, but family matters the most," she said. In the past, they returned home around four times a year. Each time, their five-year-old son, who was left at home with his grandparents, was reluctant to let them leave.

"Our venture has been attracting the young to return to the hometown," Zhang said. "We expect that, with developing rural e-commerce, more young migrant workers can come home and reunite with their families."