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E-commerce brews Salvadoran coffee

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-01-11 10:05

Hebert Vasquez from El Salvador makes coffee at his cafe in Qionghai, Hainan province. Salvadoran gourmet coffee producers seek to attract Chinese consumers via e-commerce. [Photo/Xinhua]

SAN SALVADOR-At Christmas time, coffee pickers at El Salvador's mountaintop coffee plantations were busy filling baskets with the bright red berries used to produce the Central American country's famed gourmet brew.

Hugo Hernandez, coffee consultant and businessman, said the December's harvest is of particular significance, for it could prompt the first online sales of gourmet coffee to Chinese consumers, as part of an e-commerce strategy he promoted throughout the year.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Hernandez worked to connect Salvadoran producers with Chinese e-commerce companies to scale up trade between the two markets.

"This totally historical and atypical time has allowed us to reinvent ourselves and to learn more," Hernandez said. "Surely, without the pandemic, many of us would have continued in the traditional way. Now we see that things are being made easier."

His idea is to make the most of Salvadoran coffee in China and the country's booming online retail sales. As of June last year, the number of Chinese consumers online reached 749 million, said a report issued by the China Internet Network Information Center.

During the Singles Day shopping festival in November, Alibaba's e-commerce platform Tmall registered as many as 583,000 orders in a single second, according to the company.

"China is developing this world-renowned technology that is making life easier for countries in the way we do business, in logistics, in the entire issue of payments, in the issue of export, and in, of course, the two-way information," Hernandez said.

Coffee is El Salvador's star agricultural product, with more than 24,000 producers of the beans, most of them small coffee growers with plots of up to 7.5 hectares.

Salvadoran producers now seek to attract young Chinese consumers, especially urbanites in Shanghai or Beijing who have gotten accustomed to online shopping via their smartphones.

"The young are very dynamic, very active, using social networks, using technology, which is where we want to participate to promote coffee," Hernandez said.

Salvadoran coffee exports to the Chinese market increased since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 2018, raising China's ranking to one of its important destination markets for the aromatic bean.

Armando Fontan, manager of the family-owned business Les Fontan in Ataco, a town in western El Salvador, believed it is now the right time to seek Chinese online buyers.

"We are presented with opportunities that are just around the corner, which 10 or 15 years ago did not exist," Fontan said.

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