For orange growers Shen Jianxin and wife Li Miaoying, this year's harvest could be a matter of life and death.
The Chongming couple, who suffer from cancer, are depending on their Mandarin orange harvest to fund their treatment. And it just might not be enough.
To help them raise money, the Jing'an District Cancer Rehabilitation Club recently bought 1,500 kilograms of oranges from Shen for 2,000 yuan (US$293).
The couple, who live in Luhu village on the island, said that they managed to sell 5.5 tons of oranges with the help of the city cancer rehabilitation club and district-level clubs this year.
But they were left with another 22 tons of produce and were worried that the fruit would rot with winter setting in.
In the meantime, the sale of oranges dropped dramatically as a fly pest scare broke out in Guangyuan, Sichuan Province, last month.
Chongming farmers also suffered, and only 5 percent of the area's produce could be sold by the end of last month. This came as a bad blow for the couple as they need medicine worth 1,000 yuan every month for their cancer treatment.
Shen, now 54, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005 and was put on chemotherapy. After three months, Li, who is now 55, contracted breast cancer. Their only son, 22, does not have a steady job.
"It's very hard for us to continue living. We can afford only in half doses of our medicine," Li said.
"We are doomed to lose money this year. We had planned on my surgery after we raised money from the sale of oranges. But now, I don't think we can earn enough."
The orange orchards are the only source of income for the couple. They earn an average 50,000 yuan annually.
The couple said they are grateful to the Chongming County Cancer Rehabilitation Club for the help and hope more people will pitch in.
(Shanghai Daily November 13, 2008)