E-Commerce Gives a Lift to China’s Rural Farmers – Businessweek

A recent series of food safety scandals has created a hunger in China’s big cities for natural or traditionally grown food, absent buckets of fertilizer and pesticide. Two beneficiaries of this new market are Li Chengcai, 83, and his wife, 76-year-old Cheng Youfang, who grow white radishes in fields shadowed by the Yellow Mountain range. They get orders online from distant urban customers willing to pay more for flavorful, safe food.

E-Commerce Gives a Lift to China's Rural Farmers

The couple lives in Bishan, a village of 2,800 residents, in an old stone home on a narrow street lined with crumbling mansions. Rich merchants built the homes more than a century ago when the village, in southern Anhui province, was in its heyday. Many villagers, including their four daughters, have left for the cities. In 2011, China’s population was more than half urban for the first time. But Li and Cheng, who are illiterate and speak only their local dialect, say they have no plans to leave. Fortunately, a new opportunity has come to them—as it may to many more farmers in the next few years.

About a year ago, Zhang Yu, a 26-year-old “young village official”—that’s her actual title—knocked on Li’s door. In the summer of 2012, as national newspapers carried heated debates about genetically modified organisms and food safety, Zhang and a few other young colleagues had an idea. In their capacity as village officials they launched an account on Sina Weibo, a microblogging site, to post items about the fresh, traditionally grown produce of the Yellow Mountain region. Soon afterward they began an online store through Alibaba Group’s Taobao.com platform to connect local farmers with urban buyers. The first order, for 5 pounds of sweet corn, came from a resident of the wealthy port city of Dalian.

via E-Commerce Gives a Lift to China’s Rural Farmers – Businessweek.

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