Summer shows cool ways of winning in business

Chinese manufacturers of air-cooling products and providers of cold chain services have emerged as improbable winners this summer.

Ma Zhenhuan and Yu Yin

Ma Zhenhuan and Yu Yin

China Daily


Visitors enjoy food and entertainment activities during the Starlight Music Festival in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, on July 13. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

August 1, 2023

BEIJING – Makers of fans, air conditioners, cold chain providers laugh all the way to the bank

Even as many businesses reel from scorching heat waves that have gripped the northern hemisphere, Chinese manufacturers of air-cooling products and providers of cold chain services have emerged as improbable winners this summer.

Data from Shenzhen Customs in Guangdong province indicated that the city’s total exports of electric fans soared 27 percent year-on-year in the first five months, amounting to a staggering 13.55 billion yuan ($1.89 billion). Exports to the European Union alone grew by 64 percent year-on-year, reaching 2.14 billion yuan.

Manufacturers in Zhejiang province are also busy dealing with a massive influx of orders for cooling products like fans and air conditioners. For instance, at the factory of Ningbo Dechang Electric Machinery Co Ltd, six production lines have been running at full capacity.

“Some of the lines are producing electric fans. We started mass-producing the fans at the beginning of this year. Our product has sold over 1 million units overseas,” said Fang Suping, the company’s deputy manager of sales who had just received another urgent order for more than 100,000 fans to be delivered to the United States.

According to Fang, in the past, the fans were produced and delivered before June. But due to rising temperatures, orders from Europe, North America and the Middle East have increased sharply this year. The production of fans has been mapped out until the end of August, while many customers are rushing to place urgent orders.

Zhejiang Sharbo Electric Appliance Co Ltd, an air conditioner manufacturer in Ningbo, is also ramping up production to meet surging overseas orders.

“Increasing demand for air conditioners has boosted exports. In the first half of this year, our exports were valued at $75 million, increasing 15 percent year-on-year,” said Lu Wuxing, the company’s vice-general manager.

It is not just appliances that are selling like hot cakes this summer, which also brings a windfall of fruits such as lychees and peaches. Freshly picked fruits have become popular on the back of effective cold chain logistics.

Juicy peaches from Ningbo’s Fenghua district are known for their sweet taste and were named one of China’s geographical indications, a legal label for products that come from a particular region. The popular peaches are a major source of income for farmers.

With the arrival of summer, Jiang Mi is currently hard at work in the Jiang’s Peach Garden in Zhuangyuan’ao village. The peach garden, which was established by her grandfather Jiang Yongren in 1984, has been run for three generations. The young successor has given a new life to the orchard business.

“Before we started the e-commerce business, our main customers were the nearby fruit wholesalers. Over the past seven years, our sales through the e-commerce platforms have grown rapidly, which have made up over 80 percent of the total sales. And our main clients are distributed in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces,” Jiang said.

For peach farmers, rising temperatures are a curate’s egg. Jiang explained: “High temperatures often come with plenty of sunlight, which brings sweeter peaches. But they also make the fruits smaller. Perfect fruits could only be planted when there is a balance between sunlight and rainfall. Heat waves can also speed up the maturing and spoilage of the fruits after they are picked.

“We are racing against time to keep the fruits fresh. Farmers usually pick fruits in the wee hours of the morning. And we package and send them through cold chain logistics before noon.

“Thanks to the development of cold chain logistics, the efficiency of the peach shipments has been greatly improved.”

Jiang said that it took farmers no more than 24 hours to deliver the peaches to customers in Shanghai and Hangzhou after picking them.

The effective logistic services have also boosted peach sales while her sales territory has expanded.

“Now we sell peaches to clients across the country, including the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Tibet autonomous region, and Heilongjiang and Hainan provinces,” Jiang said. “They can receive peaches within three days after placing an order.”

According to the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, the total cold chain logistics amounted to 2.65 trillion yuan in the first five months of 2023, up 4.1 percent year-on-year. During the period, the total investment and construction of China’s cold chain logistics infrastructure surpassed 14 billion yuan, increasing 6.6 percent from a year earlier.

As peach farmers in Fenghua have ushered in the peak sales period, delivery companies are accelerating their shipment services.

Wu Haojie, an official of the Ningbo division of SF Express, a leading Chinese courier firm, said that 53 pickup points have been set up in Fenghua district and the daily shipment of each point is about 200 parcels.

“We are delivering fresh commodities from Ningbo to 236 cities around the country. For shipments to 83 cities, we can complete them in one day while others are completed in two days,” said Wu.

“Take Urumchi, a city more than 3,300 kilometers away from Ningbo, as an example. If we send a fruit parcel to the city today, the receiver will get it tomorrow.”

SF Express has also helped locals send Fenghua peaches to the Hong Kong market for eight years.

“Over the past eight years, our clients have expanded from companies to individuals,” Wu said.

Ningbo Dabu Food Co Ltd, a produce processor in Fenghua district, recently tapped markets in Europe.

“The first shipment of peaches has been sent to the Netherlands in mid-July,” said Fu Zhenghua, the company’s general manager.

To ensure the quality and freshness of the exported fruits, Fenghua Customs formed a team offering one-stop guidance to local farmers and companies.

“A green channel and a reservation hotline were also launched for fresh foods. The whole Customs clearance process has been shortened by 20 percent,” said Lin Yongmao, director of the local Customs inspection department.

Thanks to the smooth export operation, the company plans to export 100 boxes of peaches to Singapore.

While Fenghua peaches are reaching overseas customers, a cold freight train carrying some 500 metric tons of durians and other fruits from Thailand arrived in Chongqing in Southwest China in June. It took 88 hours for the fruits to reach Chongqing after they left plantations in Thailand.

Compared with the traditional cold chain transportation, the fruits’ temperature and humidity condition can be monitored in real time during the whole process to ensure their freshness.

The successful transportation of the fruits will also inject impetus into fresh food imports via the cold chain logistic link, market watchers said.

A visitor buys an ice cream cone at a booth during a night fair in Ji’an, Jiangxi province, on July 19. [XIAO YUANPAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Two young visitors, wearing traditional Chinese garments, watch hami melons on display during a hami melon festival in Hami, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on July 19. [Photo/China Daily]

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