Regional farmers find new customers online

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Regional farmers find new customers online

An online sales event offers dried persimmons from Hamyang County, South Gyeongsang last week. [HAMYANG COUNTY OFFICE]

An online sales event offers dried persimmons from Hamyang County, South Gyeongsang last week. [HAMYANG COUNTY OFFICE]

Local food producers are experiencing an unexpected boom in sales in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 
The Hamyang County Office of South Gyeongsang hosted an online festival promoting the region’s dried persimmons on Naver Shopping Live, an online shopping platform run by internet portal Naver from Jan. 15 to 19.  
 
They did pretty well, selling some 300 million won ($272,720) worth of dried persimmons, according to the county office.  
 
A few days later, they hit the jackpot.
 
“People started calling from all over the country asking for our dried persimmons,” an official of the county office told the JoongAng Ilbo. “In the end we sold some 13 billion won worth of dried persimmons, coming from 60 to 70 percent of the 530 persimmons farms in the county.”
 
The secret, they found, was going online.  
 
“The fact that the festival, which is usually held in person in the county, was moved to online platforms definitely made the difference, as it was able to catch the attention of not just the locals but people all over the country,” the official said.
 
“It shows in our consumer data as well, because the average consumers for dried persimmons used to be people in their 50s or above, but this time around we saw a boost of sales amongst consumers in their 30s and 40s.”
 
Other county offices have experienced similar boons from hosting online sales.
 
Yeongdeok County in North Gyeongsang postponed its annual king crab festival last February over coronavirus concerns. As the pandemic showed no signs of ebbing, the county office moved the festival online last month, hosting not only sales events but also online dance performances with local sellers. Streamed on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, the event held every weekend in December garnered views as high as over 1.26 million on just one weekend.  
 
Local king crab sellers performing in an online festival on king crabs hosted by Yeongdeok County Office in North Gyeongsang last month. [YEONGDEOK COUNTY OFFICE]

Local king crab sellers performing in an online festival on king crabs hosted by Yeongdeok County Office in North Gyeongsang last month. [YEONGDEOK COUNTY OFFICE]

Local king crab sellers performing in an online festival on king crabs hosted by Yeongdeok County Office in North Gyeongsang last month. [YEONGDEOK COUNTY OFFICE]

Local king crab sellers performing in an online festival on king crabs hosted by Yeongdeok County Office in North Gyeongsang last month. [YEONGDEOK COUNTY OFFICE]

 
Experiencing success with online sales events last year, some local governments created their own online shopping platforms, connecting the consumers with local producers directly. Gyeonggi’s Market Gyeonggi website and North Chungcheong’s Goesan County’s Goesan Market website are just a few.  
 
The Goesan Market said it saw online sales grow during the pandemic as more people turned to online shopping and deliveries because of coronavirus concerns. Total sales from the online market were 800 million won in 2019, which grew to 1.3 billion won in 2020.
 
“It’s good that local food producers are doing well through online platforms, but the local governments need to make sure this doesn’t lead to careless expansion of online shopping platforms that could undermine the quality of goods being sold,” said Kim Mi-ok, a researcher on local produce and markets at the Chungbuk Research Institute in North Chungcheong.
 
“The local governments need to create a system that enables clear management of these online shopping platforms to ensure that farmers continue to thrive through trust-based relations with the customers.”
 
BY WIE SUNG-WOOK   [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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