The struggle to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to 1.4 billion people is bringing Chinese e-commerce companies into that nation’s hinterland, where they are trying to reform centuries-old agricultural practices to ensure the success of their emerging online grocery stores.
The Xi Jinping government has long regarded food self-sufficiency as the “number one problem” in order to avoid an imminent food crisis. During the pandemic, the urgency of modernizing China’s 200 million small farms became particularly urgent, when production and logistics were disrupted, while a large number of shoppers were buying products from Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. and other Internet retailers.
Now, some of the country’s largest private companies have joined in with state efforts to help growers boost production, improve food quality and lower prices. For the e-commerce giants, it’s one way of strengthening their foothold in an online grocery market that’s expected to be worth more than US$120 billion by 2023, without running afoul of Beijing’s recent crackdown on monopolistic practices like predatory pricing and forced exclusivity arrangements.