Crop failures and bad weather blamed for higher charges

Vegetable prices are falling nationwide after good weather at the start of this month relieved tight supplies, according to agriculture officials and experts.

Since late September, rising prices for vegetables across China had triggered concern among consumers and vendors, with some leafy greens reportedly costing more than pork.

Lang Baosheng, a dealer at the Xinfadi wholesale market in Beijing, used to buy spinach from Shandong province, the country's major vegetable hub, but this year he had to buy greens from Heilongjiang province.

"In past years, the price of spinach produced in Shandong was only 1.60 yuan to 2.40 yuan (25 US cents to 38 cents) per kilogram, but the wholesale price soared to 10 yuan last month. It was too expensive to choose," Lang said.

Xu Dejun, 50, a vendor at the Tianlihong community market in Beijing's Chaoyang district who buys vegetables from the Xinfadi market every day, said: "Last week, spinach was sold to consumers for 26 yuan per kg, a price rarely seen. It has since dropped to 12 yuan." She added that she made only a small amount for every kg sold.

Liu Chunlan, a buyer at the community market, said last week that prices for leafy green vegetables this year were too high.

"Prices recently have been about the level seen during the Spring Festival holiday in past years. Maybe COVID-19 outbreaks affected the transportation of vegetables," Liu said.

Last month, the average wholesale price for 28 types of vegetables monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs was 5.25 yuan (82 cents) per kg, a rise of 16.7 percent from September, and a year-on-year rise of 11.7 percent.

In the final week of last month, the average price for 19 varieties of vegetable rose by 49.1 percent from a year ago, and was up by 13.5 percent from the previous week.

Zhang Jing, an analyst at the ministry, said that in typical years vegetable market volume in China peaks in October, after which prices usually fall gradually.

From 2018 to last year, vegetable prices on average fell by 3.6 percent in October from the previous month.

Zhang said: "This year, prices rose in October, rather than falling. The main reason for the surge was the crop failure in North China due to earlier disastrous weather."

Since late September, main vegetable producing areas in the north of the country, including Liaoning, Shandong and Hebei provinces and Inner Mongolia autonomous region, experienced torrential rain, which left fields waterlogged.

Autumn vegetables were damaged in the floods. Varieties such as cucumber and spinach could not be sent to market, while planting of new crops was delayed.

"The sharp decline in output resulted in prices rising," Zhang said.