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Orchard owner uses online fame to grow local fruit sales

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-03 10:57
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A man sells apples through livestreaming in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on Oct 24, 2017. [Photo/VCG]

NANNING-Gan Youqin, an orchard owner, wears a T-shirt with oversleeves covering her tanned arms, her hair tied into a ponytail with faded highlights at the tips.

Gan looks ready to toil, but in fact, her field is online, where she has more than 8 million followers on social media.

She runs a family orchard in Lingshan county, the 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 cities but returned to his hometown Lingshan last year and asked his aunt to star in short videos featuring country life.

At first, Gan was not confident or comfortable in front of 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, and more followers started 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 5 metric tons of fruit online, but they sold more than 50 tons.

In the first half of 2018, the team sold more than 1,500 tons of fruit, earning 20 million yuan ($2.94 million) 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 tons this year, and 12,300 tons were sold online, with about 350 tons 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 5-year-old son, who was left at home with his grandparents, was reluctant to let them leave.

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


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