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  • Gordon Dumoulin

Rural nostalgia and farmers live streaming during COVID-19

Many traditional farmers in China have been harshly hit by the closing food markets all over the country since the #coronavirus outbreak taking out the traditional distribution channels to sell their crops.

This drastic event has intensified and speed up the farming transformation towards new retail in fresh produce and agricultural products already drastically changing the Chinese agricultural market since 2-3 years.

The new retail concept enables farmers to be in direct contact with the consumers through live streaming, promoting their products and farms, while direct selling on e-commerce platforms.

#alibaba launched its Rural Support Program on Feb. 6, opening their livestream platform to farmers for free and other giant trendy food & cooking or even cosmetic livestream channels are connecting farmers to their millions of followers.

As a result, Alibaba said they sold 15 million kilograms of agricultural produce in the first three days of livestreaming. On Feb. 13, Sanya mayor A Dong appeared on Taobao Live to promote his city’s Jinhuang mangoes. Broadcast from the picturesque Hailuo Farm, the video livestreaming session sold 30,000 kilograms of fruit in under two minutes.

JD, Kuaishou and Douyin are other examples with live streaming platforms with similar programs.

Some farmers are immensely popular with millions of followers, especially during the COVID-19 time of confinement with practically the whole of China staying at home.

Zhong Haihui, a 40-year-old farmer, was one of the first people in Hunan province to start selling his fruits through live streaming. Now he’s just one of many live streamers in rural China doing the same, reaching millions of customers from across the country on short video app Kuaishou and ecommerce app Taobao.

Zhong is more talkative and energetic when he’s chatting to his followers online. Chubby and smiling like a buddha, he refers to himself as “Uncle,'' a nickname that his viewers gladly use. He also cordially calls his viewers “bao bao” -- literally meaning “baby” in Chinese. It’s a common way Taobao live streaming hosts address their viewers to appear friendly and build rapport. He restlessly promotes his tasty, fresh fruit, points his camera at the surrounding mountains, and occasionally hums a random tune or asks viewers if they’ve eaten.

Short movie about Zhong and other live stream farmers in China (source Abacus)

Also rural countryside life vloggers are seeing an enormous surge of followers in China. These vloggers, showing simple country life, green environments and traditional habits and cooking, seem to trigger the fast moving urban people to escape from their stressful lives for a moment or maybe the surge might even be a structural sign on the wall of people reflecting their way of lives during this ‘confinement break’ , maybe more sustainable and meaningful in one way or another….

Li Ziqi (李子柒) is a vlogger living a seemingly fairytale life in the rural Sichuan countryside with 23 million followers on Weibo (Chinese twitter). She is also gaining a large audience on Youtube since joining in 2017 with more than 9 million fans. See here one of her live streams.

Li Ziqi : In the cold winter,eat ginger,can warm the whole day/正值寒冬,吃点生姜,就能暖和一整天

Dianxi Xiaoge (滇西小哥) from Yunnan province has even more Weibo followers and about 4 million Youtube fans, showing traditional countryside cooking and farming on her live streams.

A live stream by Dianxi Xiaoge about the Spring Festival this year

Anyhow, the epidemic outbreak has speeded up the huge high-tech and social transformations already happening in China’s countryside for a brighter future and who knows a psychological transformation of lifestyles as well for the urban people.

Sources : SCMP Abacus Adweek Alizila

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