Agricultural e-commerce bridges China's urban-rural gap
A year ago, farmer Liu Tongyong, who lives deep in the mountains and had never used the Internet, was worried about his snake gourd sales.
Now the 45-year-old from east China's Anhui province is selling his produce online. "I have not only sold out of product, but also gotten a better price," he said.
Liu's home in Taiping Village is about a two-hour ride from the seat of Yuexi county.
In the past, he had to wait for someone to collect the gourds. Sometimes the collectors wouldn't even show up. Liu had no choice but to let the fruit decay in the field.
This year, an e-commerce service center was set up in Taiping Village, which has helped more than 300 farmers sell their products. About 7,500 kilograms of snake gourds were sold in a year.
A report by the China Internet Network Information Center showed that of China's 688 million Internet users by the end of 2015, 195 million, or 28.4 percent, were rural residents.
China has witnessed a boom in rural e-commerce in recent years, with 780 villages exceeding 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) each in online transactions in 2015, according to a report released by online retail giant Alibaba.
China's online sales remained strong in 2015, jumping 33.3 percent year on year to 3.88 trillion yuan, with 22.4 percent of online shoppers coming from rural areas.
E-commerce has not only helped farmers sell their products, but also helped them buy things.
With the spring growing season on the way, Zhou Zhuwen in east China's Jiangxi province is buying fertilizer for his grain online.
"It is cheaper, and I have more choices," he said. The fertilizer can be delivered to his home, saving him the trouble of transportation. "This time, I bought 20 tonnes and saved more than 10,000 yuan," he added.
"E-commerce is changing farmers' work habits and boosting their efficiency," said Zheng Fengtian, vice head of the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at Renmin University.
Last year, China's Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce announced 200 counties that would serve as demonstration bases for rural e-commerce and earmarked two billion yuan to help with development there.
According to Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, the country will reduce logistics costs, which are 15 to 16 percent of total product costs on average, almost double that in developed countries.
"Methods of consumption will be improved," he said, adding that online sales have become the trend.
In this year's government work report, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang promised to "encourage the introduction of e-commerce into rural areas", and increase the accessibility of broadband networks in both urban and rural areas.
The government has pledged to spend 140 billion yuan by 2020 to provide at least 50,000 villages with broadband Internet access. At that time, about 98 percent of the nation's rural areas will be hooked up to the Internet.
Alibaba plans to invest 10 billion yuan to establish 100,000 village service centers in the next three to five years, which will serve to teach rural people how to use the Internet for shopping or business. Farmer Liu has just expanded acreage of his snake gourd fruit.