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Alibaba to help struggling farmers sell produce online amid coronavirus epidemic

Taobao and other e-commerce platforms have recently focused on direct-to-consumer selling.

friuts 2 Photo: Tuchong

Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao has launched an initiative to help Chinese farmers sell produce online, the company announced, as many producers face difficulties selling fresh goods amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Taobao said it will provide fresh fruit and vegetables from towns and counties where farmers are lacking marketing channels and resources, for a lower price, by cutting intermediaries. For example, two and a half kilograms of apples from Shandong province will cost less than RMB 30 (USD 4.3) on Taobao, while similar products can now reach RMB 60 at community fruit stores in Beijing.

Taobao and other e-commerce platforms like Pinduoduo have recently focused on direct-to-consumer selling, which cuts intermediaries, to help reduce rural poverty in China.

The company said it has sealed partnerships with some local governments to ensure the fresh products’ transportation, as some roads and major railways are currently closed off in China a bid to contain the virus.

So far, since Feb 6, around 6 million kilograms of agricultural products have been sold on Taobao, the company told KrASIA.

The project has received mixed reviews on China’s microblogging platform Weibo. Some consumers have said they appreciate the price and quality of the products, while others said the products are poorly standardized, with Taobao taking advantage of people’s kindness.

Since the coronavirus outbreak in January, which has caused more than 900 deaths in China and ongoing nationwide shutdowns of stores, farmers have faced enormous difficulties after losing their sales channels. Meanwhile, urban residents are also having trouble buying fresh groceries.

“Normally, the wholesale price of a kiwi is RMB 6, but this year no one bought them even at a price of RMB 3. Vehicles are not allowed to enter our village. Let alone hiring workers or attracting people to pick them,” a fruit farmer from a remote town in Sichuan province said, according to a press release from Alibaba.