Chinese social e-commerce platform Pinduoduo said on Tuesday that it earned sales revenue of more than RMB 65 billion (around $9.7 billion) in 2018 from a special program that sells farm produce from poverty-stricken regions. The report on the program is a timely response to announcements made during the central government’s annual Two Sessions meetings, promoting new poverty relief initiatives with the help of information technologies.

Annual sales revenue from the program totaled RMB 65.3 billion in 2018, a 233% increase from 2017, according to the report. Perishable products worth more than RMB 16 billion were sourced from 140,000 suppliers living in regions with high poverty rates, including those in the western Chinese provinces of Xizang, Xinjiang, and Gansu. Products sold on the platform include melon, garlic, yellow ginger, and Hunan-style pickled vegetables.

The government has been working to lift large rural areas out of poverty amid economic headwinds. Chinese premier Li Keqiang announced that one priority this year is “more efficient poverty alleviation” during his annual report on Monday in Beijing during the Two Sessions meetings, according to (in Chinese) state-owned media Xinhua Agency.

Rural dwellers should be encouraged to run businesses helped by “technological revolution and innovation,” as the fight against poverty reaches “a crucial stage,” Premier Li said. In response, municipal governments from 21 local provinces pledged to promote e-commerce in rural areas in their annual reports, reported (in Chinese) The Economic Observer.

“The main focus of e-commerce enterprises in the help-the-poor efforts is to exercise our leverage in internet services, so as to accelerate the circulation of produce and help farmers achieve more profits,” Huang Zheng, Pinduoduo founder and CEO said at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, a city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, in November.

Pinduoduo rival, gaming giant Netease, is also responding to the government’s call for action. Chinese media reported Netease CEO Ding Lei’s proposal during the Twin Session meetings that the government offer more services to support e-commerce initiatives targeting rural areas. One such idea, Lei suggested, could be introducing technical experts and business coaches to help local merchants create their own brands built on the enhanced quality of their special farm products.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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