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Alibaba, Pinduoduo Fight Against China’s Looming Food Crisis

  • Growers adopt new technologies, aided by e-commerce giants
  • Alibaba, rivals seek a greater share of online grocery market
The Alibaba Digital Agriculture Concentrated Transportation Processing Center in Xian, Nov. 2020.
The Alibaba Digital Agriculture Concentrated Transportation Processing Center in Xian, Nov. 2020.Photographer: Yuan Jingzhi/VCG/Getty Images
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The battle to supply 1.4 billion people with fresh fruit and vegetables is taking China’s e-commerce companies into the country’s hinterlands, where they are attempting to revolutionize centuries-old agricultural practices to secure future supply for their burgeoning online grocery businesses.

Xi Jinping’s government has long made self-sufficiency in food a “top state issue” as it seeks to avert a looming food crisis. The need to modernize China’s 200 million largely small-scale farms took on added urgency during the pandemic, when output and logistics disruptions coincided with homebound shoppers turning to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and other internet retailers for their produce.