HONG KONG, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Sixty-two-year-old Papai Mongkonkeaw, a durian farm owner in Thailand's Rayong province, had been worrying about his business since COVID-19 broke out early this year, but to his surprise, sales turned out to be even better than usual.
He attributed the unexpected boom in business to the high demand from China, as Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com, among the biggest overseas buyers for Thai durians, made large purchases during the pandemic period.
"The price of durians rose from 60 to 80 bahts (1.9 to 2.5 U.S. dollars) per kilogram a few years ago to 100 to 130 bahts (3.2 to 4.1 U.S. dollars) per kilogram now, thanks to cross-border e-commerce platforms that helped Thai durians forge their way into the Chinese market," Papai told Xinhua.
Taking full advantage of the Chinese e-commerce platforms, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit went on a livestream on Alibaba's Tmall on June 9 and helped sell nearly 5,000 durians and 20,000 young coconuts to Chinese consumers.
According to data from Thailand's Office of Agricultural Economics, the country exported 567 million U.S. dollars worth of durians to China from January to April this year amid the COVID-19 outbreak, up 78 percent from the same period of last year.
The joy of Papai was shared by Lu Yee Thing, a durian farm owner in Malaysia's central Pahang state, who told Xinhua that exports to China have increased during the pandemic period.
"Many Chinese consumers ordered our durians directly online," he said, adding "I'm very confident in future business, and I will expand planting areas to meet the demand of the Chinese market."
The durian sales on e-commerce platforms are among many success stories under the booming digital economy cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
This year was designated as the China-ASEAN Year of Digital Economy Cooperation, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digital economy in economic and social recovery, job creation and improving people's well-being.
China and ASEAN will expand cooperation in 5G, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, industrial internet, as well as digital epidemic prevention, said Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei at the virtual opening ceremony of the cooperation year on June 12.
The added value of China's digital economy registered 35.8 trillion yuan (about 5.13 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2019, accounting for 36.2 percent of the country's GDP, up by 1.4 percent from the previous year, and China's digital economy grew by 15.6 percent last year, according to China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).
For ASEAN, the digital economy is expected to increase from 1.3 percent of GDP in 2015 to 8.5 percent by 2025, according to ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, with a combined population of around 650 million.
China is at the forefront of the development of digital infrastructure and is a valuable partner of ASEAN in promoting the development of the digital economy in the region, said Lim.