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April 18, 2024    

Lychee Grower Helps Vitalise Industry via Campaign Involving Standardisation, E-commerce, and Other Endeavours

Story; Value Chain Development for Smallholders; E-commerce; Personalised Products; Brand Value

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Returning Home in Order to Help Modernise Lychee Production and Marketing

Third-generation lychee grower Wu Tianle was born in 1980 in Zhenlong Town, Huiyang County, Huizhou City, Guangdong Province. After he graduated from secondary school, he obtained a computer science degree and began working in quality control at a foreign company outside of the local area but eventually returned to his hometown in order to engage in lychee farming and marketing and help vitalise the industry in its borders in 2008.

A longstanding lychee farming tradition exists in Zhenlong. Possessing plenty of moisture and an excellent natural environment, its farmers are able to produce lychees with both great flavour and outstanding appearance, which has resulted in those that are grown there being certified by China's National Geographical Indication of Agricultural Products in November 2016 and Zhenlong receiving the “home of the lychee” designation from a non-profit organisation made up of scholars, professionals, and business entities engaged in China's forest economy known as the China Cash Forest Association, in June 2021. With almost every household living in the town's rural areas growing lychees, total annual production can reach 250,000 kg in its borders. One of the most iconic agricultural products in Huizhou, the lychee industry has become a crucial part of the vitalisation of the local rural economy.

In 2008, Wu established an organisation known as the Huizhou Green Angel Fruit and Vegetable Farming Cooperative with some of the farmers in the area with the aim of standardising farming and digital marketing efforts. He also researched and analysed successful examples of production and sales and marketing endeavours related to lychees and even well-known types of oranges and peaches in China, drew inspiration from them, and implemented and adapted relevant techniques and approaches. Wu also developed a comprehensive standardised lychee production system in collaboration with research institutions such as the Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which is one of China's leading agricultural academies and whose agricultural science and botany and zoology departments are in the top 1% of global essential science indicator rankings, and South China Agricultural University, which is one of the top universities in Guangzhou and home to an agricultural sciences department that is also recognised globally.

Addressing Sales Difficulties with E-commence

Zhenlong's lychee growers often faced difficulties with sales, however. They traditionally depended on vendors coming to town and purchasing the fruit in person, which tended to yield unstable results and could even lead to losses. Wu realised that e-commerce was the best way to achieve better prices for the town's lychees and improve demand. In 2016, he became a member of an organisation known as the Zhenlong Lychee Production Association and began actively engaging in planning, marketing, and publicity related to local agricultural products and the Zhenlong Lychee brand in conjunction with Internet Plus, which is a Chinese initiative to modernise industries and public services by harnessing the power of technology and the internet that involves integration between technology and industry, development targets and supporting policies.

In 2020, Zhenlong's lychee growers achieved a great harvest, but the COVID-19 pandemic initially put a damper on sales. Wu and the local government, therefore, discussed the situation and decided to launch an online event that featured livestreaming, dissemination of various information, a special system that matched buyers with sellers and enabled them to engage in corresponding negotiation, general e-commerce, virtual tours, and other forms of cloud-based sales and marketing activities and services that became known as the Zhenlong Lychee Cloud Festival in order to address the situation. The 24/7 online expo resulted in lychee prices stabilising at the high average level of 20 yuan per kg and the Zhenlong Lychee Production Association, which Wu had become head of by this time, receiving an “Outstanding Contribution” award for the role it played in Guangdong’s 2020 lychee sales and promotion efforts.

Excavating New Value from Zhenlong's Lychees

Wu proposed standardising Zhenlong's lychees and dividing them into categories based on diameter – 2.5 cm or less, 2.5 cm to 4.0 cm, and 4.0 cm and up – as well as quality, appearance, flavour, cultivation techniques employed, and price and creating several corresponding brands that employ distinct marketing strategies based on consumer behaviour and making adjustments as needed in line with consumers' preferences in order to meet their requirements and enable them to make informed purchasing decisions, and the plan was enacted, which has made it possible for Zhenlong's fruit farmers to produce products that are in greater alignment with market demand and increase their profits.

The entrepreneur also spearheaded a campaign to increase awareness of Zhenlong's lychee culture among the general public in addition to pursuing areas such as branding and Internet Plus, which has bolstered the town's lychees, helped with internationalisation, and boosted the local economy.

E-commerce: A Catalyst for Success

E-commerce has played a pivotal role in tracking various aspects of lychee sales and buyers' preferences as the fruit moves from the villages that it is grown in to cities and other areas. Efficiently storing transaction information, e-commerce platforms enable Wu and Zhenlong's farmers to access comprehensive data. E-commerce reduces the cost of tracking info and can facilitate customisation and one-to-one marketing, i.e., the provision of individualised messages and offerings to current and potential customers. It also makes it possible to ascertain consumers' preferences, opinions, and consumption tendencies more accurately. Big data enables Wu's company to become more aware of consumers' favourite products, which helps with the realisation of market segmentation. Consumers are able to buy products that are more personalised from new business entities, such as Wu's, and agricultural entities can learn more about consumers and their behaviour so that price discrimination can be achieved more easily.

Demonstrating how technology can help drive innovation and economic empowerment in agricultural communities, Wu's journey exemplifies the transformative potential of e-commerce in rural entrepreneurship.

For more information, please contact WFP China COE (wfpcn.coe@wfp.org)



Administration and Management Institute (AMI) of China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA)


Lychee Grower Helps Vitalise Industry via Campaign Involving Standardisation, E-commerce, and Other Endeavours


Lychee Grower Helps Vitalise Industry via Campaign Involving Standardisation, E-commerce, and Other Endeavours