Mussel farms fish for new way out on Internet amid epidemic

(Xinhua)| Updated : 2020-03-03

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At around 4 am, Yang Peng, 26, logged into his Taobao account to check if there were any orders.

The Yang's family, in the coastal city of Rizhao, East China's Shandong province, have been keeping mussels for three generations. The family now runs a mussel farm of 1,000 hectares, with an annual output of about 4.5 million kilograms.

This time of the year is the harvest season for mussels but the novel coronavirus outbreak hit the family unprepared.

"The traditional offline wholesales channels were not working due to traffic restrictions and wet markets and restaurants -- our major customers -- also kept their doors closed," said Yang. "The mussels will not taste good and can only be thrown away if we don't harvest them in time. But that means all our investment and efforts over the past year will be to no avail."

Rizhao is the largest mussel breeding base in China and produces over 60 percent of all mussels in the country. It is estimated that the total mussel farming area in the city is about 20,000 hectares this year and the output is estimated at about 220 million kg.

Their situation was reported by local media and soon arose nationwide attention. Many e-commerce platforms, including Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall, as well as soon offered to help. And in 10 days, the mussels were put on the shelves of the online stores under the project "Love to Help Farmers" on Tmall.

According to Song Xiaolu with Tmall, the mussels selected for the project are all supplied by major farms with sound breeding environment and reliable quality. "All the process is traceable, from its origin all the way to the table," said Song.

"Now we have sold nearly 30 percent of the mussels through online platforms," said Yang. "I hope the platforms can attract more consumers to help us sell more products."

Data from local authorities showed that as of Feb 27, about 86 percent of the total farmed mussel production of 17.14 million kg in Rizhao's Lanshan Disctrict had been sold.

Elsewhere in the country, farmers have suffered losses after the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The "Love to Help Farmers" project, launched on Feb 6 by Alibaba, was meant to help farmers find a market for undesirable agricultural products.

As of Feb 27, the project has helped farmers sell 1,396 kinds of agricultural products in 20 provinces across the country, with a cumulative sales volume of 58,000 tonnes. has also initiated a similar program and over 3,900 tonnes of agricultural products were sold on its website from Feb 11 to 23.

"The epidemic has fostered a new marketing model for agricultural products. With the help of e-commerce and the recovery of the real economy, I believe the problem will gradually be solved," said Tian Wenjian with the local commerce bureau.