Farmer Chen Jiubei’s live stream on Taobao.

Live-streaming is helping Chinese farmers sell their goods online

Jan 09, 2019

Plowing fields, feeding animals, and pulling weeds—now you can add live-streaming to the list of tasks farmers have to do in China.

Ever since Taobao, China’s Amazon, introduced a live-streaming app in 2016, about 100,000 farmers have used it to promote their products, according to Alibaba, which owns Taobao. (Alibaba is also the owner of the South China Morning Post, of which Goldthread is a part.)

One farmer reportedly sold 2 million pounds of oranges in two weeks through live streams.

The farmer, Chen Jiubei, recorded herself on Taobao Live doing farm work, cooking meals, and talking about her products.

The platform works similar to home shopping channels. While farmers are going about their daily routine, the live-streaming app also shows links to their products.

Viewers can add items to their cart and check out on the same screen without clicking away from the video.

“E-commerce and live-streaming in China go hand in hand,” says Tiffany Wan, general manager of VS Media, which represents content creators and live-streaming stars in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the mainland. “Brands and merchants see the opportunity to make sales on the spot.”

Other shopping websites like have also added live-streaming to their platforms.

Wan says the monolithic nature of China’s internet—where a few big tech companies dominate and offer whole ecosystems for ordering services and making payments—means live-streaming and e-commerce can naturally go on the same platform, unlike in the West, where live-streaming is still seen as strictly a form of entertainment.

For small merchants like Wang Hao, who sells women’s clothing, live-streaming is a godsend because she can interact directly with customers and answer their questions in real time.

“I receive about 40 orders a day now,” she says. “In the past, sometimes I would not even get a single order because competition is so fierce on Taobao.”

On the platform, the topics covered are almost endless.

There is a category for food, where users can watch farmers pick strawberries and beekeepers collect honey.

In the jewelry section, shop owners explain the difference between saltwater and freshwater pearls, while opening actual oysters to reveal the gems inside.

And the farmers? Many of them are using live streams to reassure people that their products are fresh and grown in areas without pollution, an increasing concern for Chinese shoppers.

But some viewers tune into the farmers’ channels just to be entertained.

Most recently, a pair of brothers went viral for streaming videos of themselves raising bamboo rats, an adorable rodent considered a delicacy in southern China.

“I’m not pretty, I’m the ugliest one among us,” the first caption reads. “The ugly ones are tasty,” the second reads.
“I’m not pretty, I’m the ugliest one among us,” the first caption reads. “The ugly ones are tasty,” the second reads. / Photo: Abacus

In each video, the two brothers come up with a hilarious reason for why a particular rat should be eaten.

Sales of bamboo rats shot up after the brothers went viral.

Adapted from an article first published in Abacus.

Taobao trendsThe Chinese internetLive-streaming