Live videos, big data stream profits into Chinese pineapple farmers' pockets

2021-05-03 03:10:42 GMT2021-05-03 11:10:42(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Wang Xiaoying and Wu Jianlian, locals of Xuwen County, south China's Guangdong Province, buried themselves under a sea of pineapples to promote the sweet treat via livestreaming and short videos all through the month of March, high season for the prickly fruit.

Xuwen, located on the southernmost tip of the Chinese mainland, boasts volcanic soil that is at least tens of thousands of years old, which, combined with a low altitude and abundant rainfall, contributes to a conducive environment for pineapples.

Dubbed the largest plantation base in China, the county grows one out of every three pineapples in the country, registering an annual output of nearly 700,000 tonnes.

While output of the fruit faces no issues, the same cannot be said of sales. Answering China's call of vitalizing its rural areas and trying to cure sales stagnation, Wang and Wu began creating live broadcasts and videos that have proven to be successful.

The field purchase price per kilo rallied in March, punching through the eight yuan barrier (about 1.24 U.S. dollars), the highest recorded price in over three decades. This uptick left farmers, including Wu, smiling from ear to ear.

A LINGERING CONUNDRUM

The tropical fruit is not always sweet, as farmers have found themselves stuck at the rough end of the pineapple from time to time.

Sales have been a long-standing issue over the years, though reasons vary from problematic cultivation to a mismatch between supply and demand.

Wang, a 26-year-old native and the daughter of pineapple farmers, has grown up seeing dull sales and financial loss constantly hovering over pineapple fields.

At the height of COVID-19 in 2020, another dull season was in the making, threatening produce in various areas, including Xuwen.

In order to help promote the sweet local specialty, Wang, then an anchor at a local television station, hosted a livestream in February of 2020. Tens of thousands of buyers tuned in, and more than 1.65 million jin (825 tonnes) of pineapples were traded. And Wang rose to fame.

LIVE-STREAMING

Wang marveled at the chemistry between livestreaming and produce marketing and realized that "expertise is imperative."

She and Wu made a perfect duo. Almost three decades into the trade and running pineapple plantation and trading market in Xuwen, Wu knows the industry chain well.

Defying the scorching sun and pineapple's stiff, jagged leaves, the pair, nicknamed "pineapple sisters," livestreamed amid lines of crops.

Their livestreams have gone viral, attracting as many as 40,000 potential buyers to shop online simultaneously, a spectacle never seen in brick-and-mortar markets.

Local farmers have become webcast savvy, too. Once loathing to be filmed, they now scramble for a few shots in live shows, according to Wang.

"They can rake in somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 yuan from one mu of fields on average," she said. "More and more well-to-do families have built themselves multi-story mansions and shelled out for private cars."

BIG DATA

Showing a steep learning curve, the local government quickly moved in. They aspired to make Xuwen and its pineapple trade a jewel in the crown of high-quality agricultural development in Guangdong Province, and even the country.

They devised a digitally-equipped mechanism spanning production and markets. In the multidimensional mechanism, big data technology is employed to track developments in production and markets, said Huang Jiatuan, an official in charge of agricultural and rural affairs in the county. Marketing events are hosted by farmers or buyers in a reciprocal manner, where streamers like Wang and Wu have an important role to play.

The mechanism was put into operation in 2019. Postal Savings Bank of China (PSBC), which operates a sprawling financial network in China's rural areas, saw a total of 680 million yuan in new deposits recorded in its 25 outlets in Xuwen during the year. Qujie Township, the main pineapple production zone in the county, contributed more than 100 million yuan.

In 2020, the town deposited another 365 million yuan in the local outlet of PSBC despite the COVID-19 epidemic.

Since the inception of the mechanism, the industry has not seen sales return to the lulls it experienced in previous years, said Huang, though the price has fluctuated.

Riding on past success in pineapple sales, Wang now promotes more native fruits in her webcast studio, hoping to contribute more to her hometown's bright future. Enditem

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