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E-commerce helps to lift farmers from poverty

Updated: Oct 29,2015 8:00 PM     Xinhua

Huo Liang earns about 1,000 yuan a month ($158) running an online shop to sell millet, a humble but nutritious food popular among Chinese.

His earnings are remarkable for a financially disadvantaged family in Tongyu county, Northeast China’s Jilin province.

In the county, nearly a third of the agricultural products including millet are sold online. Sun Hongjun, secretary of the county Party committee, said to further alleviate poverty through Internet, the government needs to improve infrastructure and logistics in rural regions, cultivate IT professionals and provide more information services to help farmers access the web.

Tongyu is not the only place to do so. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce have announced 200 counties as demonstration bases for rural e-commerce.

In the lead up to China’s 2nd National Poverty Relief Day on Saturday, the State Council unveiled plans on Wednesday to upgrade its Internet infrastructure and the development of its logistics industry in rural areas.

The government decided to allocate more central government funds to building Internet infrastructure and also advocated funding from local governments and social organizations. It plans to invest up to 140 billion yuan by 2020 to provide at least 50,000 villages with Internet access.

By then, about 98 percent of the nation’s rural areas will be hooked up to the Internet.

It coincides with another of China’s 2020 target to help about 70 million rural residents out of poverty.

China still had 70.17 million people in the countryside living below the country’s poverty line of 2,300 yuan in annual income at the end of 2014. If using the new international poverty line of $1.9 a day as benchmark, the number will see a substantial rise.

Saturday also marks the 23rd International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In preparation, Beijing will host the Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum on Friday, during which around 300 worldwide representatives will gather to share their experience in combating poverty.

Many provincial governments, such as Shandong and Gansu, have announced policies to fight poverty with the help of e-commerce, said Qu Tianjun, an official with the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

Farming in China has been booming for over three decades. The summer grain output reached a record high of 141.07 million tons in 2015 after 11 consecutive years of increases.

Though harvests were good, inefficient sales channels, a shrinking labor population and lack of access to loans have been squeezing farmers’ earnings and dragging down the rural economy.

In 2014, the per capita disposable income of rural residents rose 9.2 percent year on year to 10,489 yuan, less than half of that of urbanites.

The Internet, especially mobile networks, has provided agriculture with a new vision. E-commerce enables farmers to sell goods quickly, conveniently shop around for materials and obtain small loans more easily.

By the end of June 2015, China had 668 million Internet users, 48.8 percent of the population. Total e-commerce transaction volume in 2014 surged 59.4 percent to 16.39 trillion yuan, nearing its goal of 18 trillion yuan by 2015.

By the end of 2014, nearly 30 percent of China’s rural population were online.

China’s cabinet unveiled an “Internet Plus” action plan at the beginning of July targeted at integration of the Internet with traditional sectors to make them smarter and more efficient. Along with manufacturing, agriculture was on the top of the list.