BEIJING (Reuters) – Vegetable prices rise in China after heavy rains inundated crops this month, fueling concerns about food prices at a time when consumers must prepare for rising costs of energy as winter approaches.
Unusually heavy rains flooded parts of northern China in September and earlier this month, inundating the main vegetable growing province of Shandong.
âAll the vegetables died in the ground,â said Zhou Rui, a farmer who cultivates about 7 hectares (17 acres) in the province’s Juancheng County.
Little was left to pick after the spinach, cabbage and cilantro fields were flooded, she added, when some farmers had not replanted because the weather had already turned too cold.
The price of spinach jumped to 16.67 yuan ($ 2.61) per kg this week, from 6.67 yuan at the end of September, according to a price index published in the provincial vegetable trade center in Shouguang.
Prices for broccoli, cucumbers and cabbage have also more than doubled in recent weeks.
Soaring prices are a hot topic on Weibo, similar to Twitter in China, with many users claiming vegetables are now more expensive than pork, the country’s staple meat.
“Cilantro now costs 17.8 yuan per half a kilo, it’s really more expensive than pork!” wrote a user from the eastern province of Anhui.
The rise, at a time when inflation is increasingly monitored, worries government officials in Beijing, anxious to ensure sufficient food supplies before winter.
The average wholesale price of vegetables in the capital has jumped 39.8% from last month, while some leafy vegetables have risen by more than 50%, the city government said on Tuesday.
Authorities in Beijing have warned that prices could rise further in the coming weeks as the city looks further south to source vegetables when temperatures drop and high energy prices drive up transportation costs.
High vegetable prices are unlikely to drive headline consumer price inflation higher, but they come as soaring fuel costs are expected to be gradually passed on to consumers.
âIt’s a very big increase, so it’s very noticeable,â said Darin Friedrichs, senior commodities analyst for Asia at StoneX. “We can see consumers budgeting for other things in response.”
Rising energy prices are also pushing up greenhouse operating costs, in addition to record fertilizer prices this year.
âOur natural gas prices have increased by at least 100% and we believe they could triple during the Chinese New Year,â said Xu Dan, director of the HortiPolaris greenhouse in Beijing, referring to the most important holiday. from China, scheduled for next February.
“I have to find a way to increase our energy efficiency. You can’t ask consumers to pay three times the price.”
Chinese coal prices have risen nearly 190% this year due to tight supply following rigorous security checks and break-in investigations in major mining regions, while heavy rains inundated dozens of northern coal mines.
($ 1 = 6.38268 Chinese renminbi yuan)
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Additional reporting from Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez.)
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