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Alibaba’s smart supermarket Hema to collaborate with 1,000 villages to rejuvenate China’s farming sector

Written by Jiaxing Li Published on     2 mins read

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E-commerce firms are developing China’s less developed areas to achieve state-endorsed “common prosperity.”

Alibaba’s retail marketplace for fresh produce, Hema Fresh, will set up 1,000 “Hema Villages” across China by 2025 to modernize China’s agriculture sector.

Hema Fresh will purchase RMB 100 billion (USD 15.7 billion) worth of produce from farmers in the next five years, vice CEO Shen Li said last Friday at a forum hosted by the Ministry of Commerce. The “Hema Village” initiative will help farmers select crops for cultivation and establish sales agreements with fixed purchase prices. The produce will be delivered directly to Hema’s brick-and mortar locations and customers.

The retail platform has set up over 140 villages across China since 2019, with each one specializing in the cultivation of certain types of produce. All shipments come with QR codes, which can be scanned by customers who want to find out about the products’ origins and recommended recipes.

“We hope to use the Hema Village program to explore a model that can remedy the shortcomings of traditional agriculture, and contribute to the revitalization of the countryside,” Shen says.

This development is in line with the Chinese government’s endorsement of “common prosperity,” which has spurred Chinese tech companies to formulate a series of projects that are meant to foster economic developments for low-income communities.

In all, over 500 million people live in rural areas, according to China’s latest census conducted in 2020. Among them, 250–270 million people depend on the agriculture sector for their livelihoods.

China’s internet companies, especially e-commerce giants, are blending their expertise in mass-scale retail with the agricultural sector, offering new ways to place fresh produce in the homes of their massive customer bases.

JD.com has set up livestream centers in regions like Shandong, Guangxi, and Inner Mongolia to develop sales channels for local products. The company has recruited professional livestreamers to be stationed at these locations and produce professional content. It collaborates with local governments to highlight specialty goods.

Similarly, Pinduoduo established a “10 Billion Agriculture Initiative,” which involves the provision of RMB 10 billion (USD 1.55 billion) to support rural farmers.

“Rural areas attract more resources during the common prosperity campaign,” researchers from the National Academy of Economic Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences wrote in an article published in Guangming Daily. “The new engine for rural development is to digitize the agriculture sector.”

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