E-com­merce bridges Ti­bet’s agri pro­duce, con­sumers

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By CHEN MEILING in Lhasa chen­meil­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Farm­ers in poverty-stricken ar­eas of the Ti­betan plateau in South­west China have found ways to sell their crops and re­lated prod­ucts to cus­tomers world­wide, thanks to a newly built mar­ket­ing sys­tem.

By the end of 2014, about 75 per­cent of Ti­bet’s pop­u­la­tion were liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas, data from the Ti­bet Year­book showed. They rely on agri­cul­ture for sub­sis­tence. Rice, bar­ley, wheat, honey, and meat are the main prod­ucts they trade.

For a long time, lo­cal farm­ers have faced chal­lenges in sell­ing their pro­duce, due to in­ad­e­quate com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works like trans­port sys­tems. That hin­dered ac­cess to cus­tomers.

But that is about to change. Cui Taifu, gen­eral man­ager of the Ti­bet Sup­ply and Mar­ket­ing Co­op­er­a­tives, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­pects to build off­line stores in 20 to 50 ma­jor Chi­nese cities to dis­play and sell Ti­betan goods.

A new e-com­merce plat­form will com­ple­ment the ef­forts to in­crease sales and bring wealth to the na­tives of Ti­bet.

“Most of the ru­ral ar­eas are re­mote. Some of Ti­bet’s crops may rot within three months. So if farm­ers can’t sell their crops in time, they would lack mo­ti­va­tion to pro­duce food,” Cui said. “We aim to build the whole mar­ket­ing chan­nel to help en­large pro­duc­tion and in­come for them.”

Th­ese days, Liu Yali, sales man­ager of Ti­bet Jishun Bi­o­log­i­cal Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd, is busy stock­ing up high­land bar­ley vine­gar on the shelves of a com­pany store in Lhasa. The store opened in Septem­ber.

“Ti­bet has very rich re­sources. The high­land bar­ley, for ex­am­ple, can help ease high blood pres­sure, di­a­betes and hy­per­lipi­demia,” she said. “The wa­ter and air are also clean.”

How­ever, do­ing busi­ness in Ti­bet is not easy, since the costs of raw ma­te­ri­als, hu­man re­sources and pro­duc­tion are very high due to poor liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment on the plateau, she said.

For ex­am­ple, Ti­bet does not have bot­tle sup­pli­ers, so lo­cal mer­chants have to buy bot­tles from the in­land, which in­creases the cost by 1.5 times, she said.

Jishun Bi­o­log­i­cal’s

rev­enue reached about 5 mil­lion yuan ($722,000) last year, but it still has not bro­ken even.

“The big­gest prob­lem is how to in­crease sales,” she said, adding fran­chis­ers and agents charge fees, but the co­op­er­a­tives pro­vide free space to ex­hibit and sell their prod­ucts, which will help them en­ter such stores in other cities later.

“It’s too ex­pen­sive to cover the huge Chi­nese market by our­selves. We are happy to have such a plat­form,” Liu said.

Yi Chuanhu, gen­eral man­ager of Chamdo Jun­qin Agri­cul­tural Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Co Ltd, a high­land bar­ley corn­meal, pow­der and rice pro­ducer, said: “High­land bar­ley is the most com­mon agri­cul­tural prod­uct in Ti­bet. I hope more peo­ple can know about the green plateau prod­ucts by join­ing the co­op­er­a­tives.”

Ten­zin Yon­ten, a young en­tre­pre­neur, put his wheat-based ed­i­ble chop­sticks on the shop shelves, ex­pect­ing to at­tract cus­tomers with in­no­va­tive agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and pro­mote the idea of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

Yon­ten, a na­tive, re­turned to his home­town to run his own busi­ness with two of his friends af­ter grad­u­at­ing from South­west Minzu Univer­sity.

“Lo­cals used to plant crops and con­sume the stuff them­selves, with resid­ual stock sold at cheap prices,” he said, adding the co­op­er­a­tive ap­proach is a good chan­nel to link po­ten­tial clients and busi­ness part­ners.

The Sup­ply and Mar­ket­ing Co­op­er­a­tives is a na­tion­wide sys­tem ini­ti­ated by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in the 1950s. It has been a key plat­form for the dis­tri­bu­tion of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts in ru­ral ar­eas over the past decades.

The Ti­betan branch of the Co­op­er­a­tives plans to set up 50 sites across Ti­bet be­fore 2020 to sup­ply daily goods and agri­cul­tural ma­te­ri­als, teach tech­ni­cal skills, pur­chase agri­cul­tural prod­ucts for farm­ers, as well as con­duct­ing pre­lim­i­nary pro­cess­ing, ac­cord­ing to Cui.

Each site is ex­pected to in­crease in­come of the na­tives by 250 mil­lion yuan, serv­ing 25,000 peo­ple.

From early 2017, the com­pany has helped five lo­cal com­pa­nies to link up with in­land sales agen­cies, which in­creased the amount of raw agri­cul­tural prod­ucts bought by up to 10 mil­lion yuan per year, Cui said.

Peiqiang Meat In­dus­try is one of those five com­pa­nies. Wu Zhiqiang, its gen­eral man­ager, said its sales grew by 60 to 70 per­cent af­ter join­ing the Co­op­er­a­tives.

Its prod­ucts were sold to Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Chengdu and Cen­tral China’s Hu­nan prov­ince. Cus­tomers tend to trust prod­ucts bear­ing the trade­mark of the Co­op­er­a­tives and those sold on an of­fi­cial plat­form, he said.

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