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Chongming fruit growers still face difficult times
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Chongming mandarin growers say they still need help to sell this year's orange crop, even though about 60 percent has now been sold.

More than 100,000 tons of mandarin oranges grown in Chongming County had been sold by yesterday, accounting for 59 percent of this year's total mandarin crop.

But the situation is still serious, they say. Falling temperatures mean the mandarins must be picked soon. After they are picked, they have to be sold within a few days.

"Mandarin-planters are doomed to lose money this year," said Mao Defei, section chief of the Chongming County Agricultural Commission. "What we can do now is to try our best to help them reduce losses as much as possible. So far the sale is better than we had expected."

He said the government is now suggesting fruit companies buy mandarins for further processing. Mandarins can be used as raw materials to produce preserves and tinned fruit.

This season, a series of measures were adopted to help mandarin planters after a fly pest was found in mandarins grown in Guangyuan, Sichuan Province, in late September. No pests were found in Shanghai mandarins, but consumers still stayed away and mandarin sales and prices plummeted.

The measures enacted to help farmers included traffic police issuing 35 permits to allow vehicles transporting mandarins special access to the downtown area. Vehicles with mandarins also receive preferential treatment on the ferry. Wholesale centers have been set up downtown to let people buy mandarins more easily.

In addition, a number of companies stepped in to buy up mandarins to help farmers out. Shanghai University Logistics Service spent 300,000 yuan (US$43,944) buying 300 tons of mandarins. The oranges will be sent to university canteens and distributed to students free of charge.

Baosteel Group promised to go to the island to buy mandarins every three days.

(Shanghai Daily November 29, 2008)

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