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Shanghai House Prices Not the Highest

Just two weeks ago, Beijing was thought to have the highest housing prices on China's mainland. Then a report from the National Bureau of Statistics said Shanghai had assumed the title.

Now, the local government says neither city has the most expensive property market on the mainland, but a city spokeswoman won't say which city does.

Jiao Yang, a spokeswoman for the Shanghai government, said yesterday that Shanghai's average housing price - 5,118 yuan (US$616) per square meter - is only the second highest among mainland cities. Her office, however, refused to name the most expensive city.

Two weeks ago, the National Bureau of Statistics issued a report saying Shanghai had surpassed Beijing to become the country's most expensive housing market in 2003.

Asked to comment on the report, Jiao said the report ranks provinces and municipalities, rather than cities. "If comparing cities, Shanghai is the second most expensive," she said.

So where are the most expensive apartments in China? The Securities Times, a well-respected business newspaper, says Shenzhen holds the title with an average hosing price of 5,680 yuan per square meter.

"In general, the city's real estate market is healthy," Jiao said.

Housing prices in Shanghai shot up an incredible 24.2 percent last year, the fastest growth rate in the country, according to the statistics bureau.

Local housing authorities vowed at the start of this year to ensure prices don't rise by more than 12 percent in 2004.

Apartments are not the only commodities going up in price. Jiao said the local government has taken several steps to stabilize rising rice prices in the city.

She said prices are rising due to price increases on the international market and a decrease in the amount of rice harvested by domestic farmers.

"The city government has paid particular attention to the situation," said Jiao.

She said the government will urge state-owned rice companies and big chain supermarkets to enlarge their processing and distribution to ensure steady rice supply in local outlets.

"Currently, the city's rice supply is healthy and steady," she said.

The city now has about 1.1 million tons of rice in reserve.

While rice prices increased quickly early this year, they have been stable for the last two week, industry sources say. Price have risen from about 2.6 yuan per kilogram last October to 3.6 yuan per kilo, an increase of about 38 percent.

Jiao also said yesterday that the city will lift a ban on the sale of live poultry put into place during the bird flu scare earlier this year. But vendors will only be allowed to sell live chickens, not ducks or other water fowl.

She denied rumors that property developer Zhou Zhengyi has committed suicide. Zhou is under house arrest while officials investigate charges against him.

(Eastday.com March 26, 2004)

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