Crops in cyberspace

Updated: 2012-02-20 09:53

By Du Juan (China Daily)

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The Internet has changed the way small communities can profit from sales of agricultural produce

XINGTAI, Hebei - Looking at the newly built road lined on both sides with walnut trees, Li Hejun felt satisfied: He'd eventually found a way to sell agricultural produce online, even though that success has given him many sleepless nights.

Crops in cyberspace

A newly built road in the mountainous Yunyang county, Chongqing municipality. The poor condition of local roads used to prevent farmers in inland areas from selling their produce, but now some have blazed a trail by adopting more innovative techniques, such as selling online.[Photo/China Daily]

Li, 33, a resident of Nanjiushui village in Xingtai county of Hebei province, about 500 kilometers from Beijing, has described his relationship with Liu Shuwei, an economics professor and researcher at the Central University of Finance and Economics, as being like that between a mother and son.

That's because Liu taught him to use the Internet and employ modern marketing methods to sell the agricultural produce of his village. Liu's intervention has helped Li to lead a life far removed from that of many other young farmers.

In May, Liu placed a post on her micro blog on t.163, a major Chinese micro-blogging website, saying that she wanted to help the people of Nanjiushui sell their produce and raise funds to build a road that would connect walnut groves in a mountainous area with the village center.

She soon received orders from across the country, with the exceptions of Qinghai, Tibet, Xinjiang and Ningxia, where online shopping isn't as popular as in other areas.

Meanwhile, she helped Li to open Nanjiushui's official micro blog and started posting photos of the walnuts trees and the road, which was then under construction, to share with other bloggers and customers.

Liu bought a computer and a camera for Li, enabling him to take photos and to go online. Their combined efforts attracted hundreds of orders for the walnuts.

"At the very beginning, we promoted the walnuts and I even called my friends to place orders," said Liu. "As the orders started to increase, I started worrying that the village would not have enough to meet demand."

In October, when the walnuts had matured, Li organized other villagers to pick those of the best-quality and to package them with the help of staff from a logistics company, Shanghai Yuantong Express (Logistics) Co Ltd, which also tendered the lowest price for delivery of the produce.

After a hectic month, Nanjiushui had sold 2,500 kilograms of walnuts, making a net profit of 50,000 yuan ($7,900).

Liu said this first attempt has demonstrated that China's agricultural sector needs to be reformed in terms of marketing, organization and talent. Previously villagers have not received enough help from effective organizations to market and transport their wares, a situation which may change with the introduction of the new methods.

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