Farmers livestream to sell their produce

By Phan Duong   October 8, 2023 | 04:32 am PT
Farmers livestream to sell their produce
"Sold," "ordered," and "bought," were the refrains echoing throughout "Five Thousand Market" in the northern highland province of Yen Bai’s Dong Khe Town on the morning of Sept. 23.

The market is home to a training program teaching farmers how to livestream and sell their produce on social media and other online forums.

Previously shy farmers could now be heard speaking into their phone’s cameras throughout the market, soliciting customers like auctioneers:

"Three, two, one! Hello, everyone! Today we only have five deals for the first five customers, so make sure to order quickly!"

Doan Thi Luong, a 39-year-old producer of salted dry apricot and docynia indica (tao meo) jam, was one of the training course participants. She learned how to speak to customers in a sales-friendly way and how to operate a livestream to pull in viewers.

By the end of the market session, she had sold a total of VND168 million (US$6,885) in produce. Many of her new customers didn’t even know what docynia products were until she and her family introduced them.

"I once tried livestreaming before, but since no one watched, I got discouraged and tended to end the streams early. Sometimes my livestreams would get shut down due to violations. I’d only get an order every once in a while," Luong said.

Luong livestreams to sell her products alongside TikTokers Dam Duc and Anh Dan Toc at the Five Thousand Market, northern Yen Bai Province, on Sept. 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Phan Duong

Luong livestreams to sell her products alongside TikTokers Dam Duc and Anh Dan Toc at the Five Thousand Market, northern Yen Bai Province, on Sept. 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Phan Duong

But Luong is doing much better now that she is one of more than 20 farmers of Van Chan District taking part in a training program organized by the Trade Promotion Centre for Agriculture (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) in partnership with TikTok, other multimedia channels, and local authorities.

The program facilitates practice sessions that teach farmers about the potential of online business. The goal is to instruct them on how to become "farmers of the future." The training teaches participants how to manage a livestream, how to create an account and channel, and how to set up an online store. The course also guides farmers away from prohibited products and words they should avoid using.

However, as most of the participants are elderly people, they often have a hard time putting what they learned into practice because they are not used to technology and are so used to selling the traditional way. On the other hand, younger farmers are determined to move forward.

This past Saturday, newcomers were shown how to set up their accounts and online store, while Luong was taught how to properly run her channel as she had already set hers up during a previous session.

"In the future, these people will be the ‘seeds’ of tomorrow," said Vu Dieu Thuy, one of the program’s instructors. "Their success will inspire the community and the town."

According to Thuy, who is also a streamer with 2.6 million followers, the advantage of livestreaming is being able to motivate the buyers and influence them into buying more online as opposed to in person. With nothing but a phone and a garden or market setting, the farmer can boost their revenue and open up a new way to promote their products on e-commerce channels.

These types of "barefoot streamers" exploded in popularity in China during the pandemic. Statistics from the Chinese E-Commerce Agency have revealed that total online retail revenue for produce reached US$77 billion lasty year, 9.2% more than in 2021.

The phenomenon has been growing quickly in Vietnam as well. On TikTok alone, there were 30 training programs on digital transformation that attracted thousands of learners in 2022.

Over 200 Vietnamese farmers have opened up online stores via the platform. Their videos at #OCOP and #DacSanVietNam have garnered 700 million views. This year, there have been 20 sessions instructing farmers on how to sell via livestream.

Dieu Thuy’s company took part in five of these sessions in the provinces of Phu Tho, Lam Dong, Bac Giang, Hung Yen, and Yen Bai. One of the "seeds" they were able to cultivate is Truong Thi Hoai, a 60-year-old woman selling local specialty products from Ninh Binh Province.

Hoai said that previously, she sold her goods at only one location and few people knew of her products. When she heard about this new way of selling, she got curious. She then launched her own new channel and gained 4,000 followers after a few months of videos that showed viewers her daily life.

Knowing how to approach technology is not an easy thing for someone her age. She is still working on how to cultivate new content, as well as learning how to make videos better, how to take better photos of her products, and how to set her pricing.

"I want everyone to take a liking to me and watch my channel regularly before I begin livestreaming," she said.

Also recognizing the potential of livestreams, Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa, known as the "Fermented Pork Girl from Phu Tho," has been learning to hone her skills on the tool since June.

Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa (right) livestream with an employee and two other streamers, A Tua Phinh Ho and Dam Duc, for the OCOP Market Session in the Ancestral Land on July 22, 2023. Photo courtesy of Hoa

Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa (right) livestream with an employee and two other streamers, A Tua Phinh Ho and Dam Duc, for the "OCOP Market Session in the Ancestral Land" on July 22, 2023. Photo courtesy of Hoa

Due to her previous local mini-fame, her livestreams became quite successful early on. In her first stream, she earned VND10 million, and in her second stream, the figure increased to VND50 million. In a stream on July 22 titled "OCOP Market Session in the Ancestral Land," she earned a total of more than VND180 million.

Currently, Hoa goes live two times a week, and her revenues have reached more than half a billion VND each month.

"Everything is still new to me, I’m still learning and correcting my mistakes every day," Hoa said. "But it’s clear to me that this is a platform with much potential."

According to Dr. Le Hoanh Su of HCMC’s University of Economics and Law and a member of the Vietnam E-Commerce Association, these types of livestreams selling produce are a necessary step towards the future as technological platforms continue to develop and as the increasing specialization of logistics allows for cheaper, faster, and more reliable transportation.

From the consumers’ perspective, the increasing need to know about the origins of the food they are consuming allows for these "home-grown" livestreams to build a basis of trust, said Dr. Su. He added that this method will boost revenue and be the key to solving the farmer’s problem of finding an output for their products.

"This will motivate the farmers to change and adapt to this new world," he said.

At the beginning of 2022, Phan Minh Thuc and his family from Gia Lai province were only able to sell a few kilograms of beef jerky per day. When they decided to sell their products online, they became famous all over the country after only a year. Now they sell a full ton of jerky every day on average.

Some of their videos have brought them VND2.3 billion, and during some of their livestreams, they’ve been able to sell over VND1 billion worth of jerky.

Currently, Thuc and his family are opening up a new factory, which will create jobs for more than 30 people.

From their success, Thuc and his wife began to support the local area by organizing commerce promotion events and livestreams for other farmers, as well as sharing their experience on how to bring the produce from "farm to table."

"Two years ago, my wife and I had to go back to our hometown because our business failed due to the pandemic. We now have this much success because we knew how to seize the opportunity," said Thuc.

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