The transport chaos caused by continuous snow and sleet affecting much of China has driven vegetable prices up all across the country.
In Changsha, Wuhan and other hard-hit cities in the southern, central and eastern regions, vegetable prices have more than doubled. In areas not affected by snow, such as Beijing and the southern Guangdong province, prices have also risen sharply.
"Cucumbers were five yuan (69 U.S. cents) per kilo 10 days ago, now you have to pay 8.2 yuan. Broccoli almost tripled from 2.8 yuan to 8.2 yuan per kilo." said Huang Tianlu, a 45-year-old wholesaler at Xinfadi market, the largest produce market in Beijing.
"Greenhouse vegetables sold in Beijing relies relatively on transport from the south. There were more than 10 trucks with a load of 20 tons each day before, now there's only one or two coming because of the snow. When a truck comes, we all swarm to it however high the price is," he said.
Vegetable prices rose in 11 Chinese provinces and regions, including Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan in the south, Hubei and Henan in the central region, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Anhui in the east, and Liaoning, Shaanxi and Xinjiang in the north, according to a statement on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission on Wednesday.
Green-leaf vegetables have risen markedly, with cabbage, radish, eggplant and cucumber up more than 50 percent, the statement said.
To help keep prices down, Wuhan in the central Hubei province has ordered all highway and expressway administrators to exempt trucks carrying vegetables to the city from toll. It has also decided to give a one-off subsidy of 120 yuan to 102,000 low-income families in the city by Wednesday.
In neighboring Hunan Province, the government provided instant noodles, water, bread and biscuits to stranded passengers. Changsha, the capital of Hunan, restricted the prices of some goods in affected areas. About 300 teams have been sent to hard-hit areas to monitor prices.
The government of Shenyang, capital of the northeastern Liaoning Province, extended an 80-150 yuan subsidy per ton to more than half of the major vegetable wholesalers in the city.
Local governments in Xi'an, capital of northwest Shaanxi province, and two other cities added four to six yuan subsidies per person to low-income families.
Southwest Sichuan Province provided "green paths" to vehicles carrying fresh agricultural products to guarantee local supply.
The southeastern island Hainan Province, which is geographically rather isolated, exports 85 percent of its vegetables by motor vehicle, according to the local agricultural bureau. So far, about 12,000 vegetable trucks have been stranded en route. The bureau said that about 800 to 1,000 vehicles were still operating in the province but only five trucks arrived at Wuhan, six at Chengdu and eight at Beijing on Tuesday afternoon.
All 80,000 tons of cold storage capacity in Hainan were already in use and if conditions didn't improve within a week, there would be no way to store produce intended for other provinces, the local bureau said.
Heavy snow since mid-January, the worst in 50 years in southern, central and eastern areas, will continue over the next three days, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Snow and sleet has paralyzed transport and coal shipments, and led to travelers cramming railways stations and airports. Power supply has been reduced in almost half of the 31 provinces and regions on the Chinese mainland.
(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2008)