CHENGDU, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- For apple growers in southwest China's Sichuan Province, e-commerce has become the apple of their eye.
"My apples are very sweet. I can send you some for free," 48-year-old Hu Xiuhong said over a video call to a customer.
Hu lives in Yanyuan County of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture. Hu could barely make ends meet just a few years ago. Now he has become a leader lifting his fellow villagers out of poverty.
Yanyuan has long been impoverished due to its lack of arable land and resources. Owing to the mountainous landscape, most agricultural products have little chance of meeting the outside world.
However, Liangshan has explored a way to sell products on e-commerce platforms to break the barriers of limited transportation and increase the incomes of poverty-stricken families.
Hu was reluctant at first. "I would worry if it wasn't a face-to-face transaction," he said.
He suffered from a lack of confidence as he was no longer young and didn't have much of an education. But he persisted. In 2015, his online shop opened.
"I didn't know how to market my produce so I resorted to a simple way -- befriending anyone I met, sending them my online store link and giving them free apples," he said.
During the first year Hu added 80 WeChat friends and sold 10,000 kg of apples.
Hu's quality apples have brought him unexpected sales. "Now I have over 3,800 friends on WeChat and my products sell well as regular customers bring me new customers," he said.
He earns about 400,000 yuan (about 57,000 U.S. dollars) a year with the apples harvested on 2 hectares of land.
He established a cooperative to bring more villagers to sell apples online. The annual sales soon exceeded 10 million yuan, padding the pockets of nearly a hundred poor families.
Miyueha, head of the local commerce and investment promotion bureau, said about 60,000 people in Yanyuan work in the field of e-commerce. Online transactions totaled 1.3 billion yuan from January to November.
In Lake Township of Liangshan's Xide County, farmers can sell their agricultural products to an e-commerce service station to be sold online.
"In the past, I had to walk for hours while carrying peppers and potatoes to the nearest township to sell for almost nothing," said Adi Latie, who earned over 10,000 yuan this year via online sales.
Not long ago, about 10,000 kg of peppers and 11,000 kg of buckwheat flour in six poor villages purchased by the e-commerce service station were snapped up online, bringing handsome incomes to 230 poor households.
According to official statistics, the turnover of e-commerce in Xide has exceeded 168 million yuan this year, up 19 percent year on year.
"The development of rural e-commerce not only improved people's incomes, but their lives too as more industrial products and necessities find a way to reach them," said Mei Yong, deputy head of Xide.