Nothing quite beats the joy of sinking one’s teeth into a piece of juicy sweet muskmelon on a hot summer’s day. And they don’t come much sweeter than those from Yanliang in China’s northern Shaanxi province.
In recent years, the melon farmers of Yanliang have been able to attract increasing interest from across the country thanks to the reach of e-commerce. Whereas in the past farmers used to haul their harvests in handcarts and small trucks to local markets to meet prospective buyers, with no certainty of a sale, online marketplaces like Pinduoduo have helped promote the Yanliang’s muskmelons far and wide.
E-commerce has enabled farmers to break through the age-old constraints of geography and market more directly to the end consumer. This has also helped rural communities to build brands out of their local agricultural specialties, allowing farmers to differentiate and command a premium for their quality products. The new online businesses not only boost farmer incomes but also create jobs by stimulating demand for ancillary industries such as packaging and logistics.
“Yanliang muskmelons are particularly suited to e-commerce because there’s production scale, they come onto the market early, and they are hardy in transportation,” said Zhang Chengguang, who runs an online store on Pinduoduo, China’s leading agriculture platform.
Zhang is on track to surpass 500,000 in muskmelon sales this year, compared with 410,000 last year and 180,000 when he first started selling the cantaloupes online in 2018. Back then, he had just returned from Shanghai – where he had a promising career in the food and beverage industry – to start a business selling his hometown’s specialty through online marketplaces.