Across China: Savoring harvest from online chatroom

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-11 16:48:41|Editor: Li Xia
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KUNMING, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Instead of sickles, shovels and picking bags, Ma Lingmin, a farmer in southwest China's Yunnan Province, reaped her autumn gains with a smartphone and a desk lamp upon the arrival of the harvest season.

Dressed in folk costume featuring ethnic embroidery, Ma is an internet celebrity known by the name "Floret of Yunnan" on Taobao Village Live, a livestreaming platform run by Alibaba.

The post-95 college graduate who used to work as a preschool teacher has attracted 5 million followers on the Taobao platform.

The young livestreamer spent 350 days over the past year traveling some 4,000 km around 36 towns and villages in Yunnan to select quality farm produce and promote their online sale, offering her services free of cost.

By sharing local specialties in her online chatroom, Ma has found livestreaming can help farmers in poverty-stricken areas to sell farm produce straight from the fields to consumers.

"I've found more than 30 original tastes in Yunnan, including plums, ginseng fruits and soft-seeded pomegranates," she said.

As Chinese consumers increasingly turn to livestreaming for shopping in recent years, short video and livestreaming platforms have extended their reach in numerous rural villages across the country, even in the most remote areas, linking farmers with potential customers via mobile screens.

China had 433 million users on multiple livestreaming websites by the end of June, more than half of the country's online population, according to the latest report published by the China Internet Network Information Center.

Livestreaming has proved to be an effective marketing tool for farm products. According to Alibaba, online sales of red rice, herbs, Pu'er tea and other Yunnan specialties exceeded 4.4 billion yuan (about 616 million U.S. dollars) in 2018.

Yet becoming a livestreamer was not as easy as Ma Lingmin first thought, even with all her previous experience performing and being an emcee.

"Unlike other webcasts, streaming in villages requires special preparations," she said. Taking time to get to know the characteristics of agricultural products is much more important than makeup or beauty filters to give herself smoother skin, longer eyelashes or fuller lips onscreen, she said.

Ma said she has attracted many fans with her fruit-peeling skills.

Her livestreaming helped farmers in a remote village of mountainous Mengzi City to sell more than 100 tons of yellow ginger last year.

She gives priority to projects that will benefit the needy. One of the beneficiaries, a handicapped farmer named Xiong Yilin, is the only bread-earner of his family. With Ma's help to sell his harvest, he is now able to build a new house so that his family no longer need to live under the same roof together with their livestock.

Yu Feng, general manager of Taobao's content ecology business unit, said that cellphones and livestreams are becoming "new farm tools and new farm work."

Launched in January, livestreaming of nearly 50,000 village events have drawn more than 200 million users from 270 counties across the country, and created quite a number of internet celebrities like Ma.

"Rural markets in China are broad and promising," said the "Floret of Yunnan." She hopes more farmers can get the hang of the novel livestreaming method and bring the wonderful products of Yunnan to even more people.