Watermelon sees lackluster sales due to fear of China

Tuesday, Jun 04, 2013 16:24

Watermelons are sold on many roads in the city. Photo phunuvietnam.vn
HA NOI – "They said it's from HCM City, but it costs only a few thousand dong per kilogram," Nguyen Thi Giang said, eying a pile of watermelon. "I do not dare to buy it due to its cheap price."

After hearing rumours of the toxic chemicals used in Chinese agriculture, many Vietnamese like Giang started boycotting cheap vegetables and fruits – which they believe to be imported from the neighbouring country. As a result, traditional summer fruits like watermelon and winter melon sit untouched on many roads in the city.

Dinh Thi Anh Tuyet, another Ha Noi resident, believes that Chinese watermelon contains toxic chemicals that would affect her family members' health. Since she can't tell the difference between Chinese-grown and domestic watermelon, she's opted to stop buying it completely.

Such decisions have affected the price of many summer vegetables and fruits, which are nearly half what they were last year, according to Vietnam Economic Forum. The price of winter melon decreased to VND4,000 (US$0.2) per kg; on roads near Thang Long Bridge, Saigon watermelons sell for VND6,000 to VND10,000 per kg.

"If I sold watermelon for more, people would refuse to buy it. But when I sell it for less, they think that it comes from China," said Nguyen Thi Thanh, the owner of a watermelon shop on Ho Tung Mau Road. "If ten customers come in the shop, nine of them ask if the fruit is from China and if not, why it's so cheap."

Watermelong, a traditional summer fruit in Viet Nam sit untouched on many roads in the city. Photo luxurybooking.net

Watermelons grow in many provinces throughout the country and surrounding Ha Noi, such as Hai Duong, Thai Binh and Hung Yen. The fruit is even exported to China, Thanh said. So why would people bother to import it?

It's not only sellers like Thanh who face low demand. Nguyen Thi Trang, who owns 1.5 ha of winter melon fields in Vinh Phuc Province, said that while she had a good crop this year, the decreasing price caused financial difficulties.

She and other farmers had to invest nearly VND2 million to grow one sao (360 sq.m.) of winter melon. But with the purchase price as low as VND1,500 per kg, they have yet to see a return on their investment.

Vendors now count themselves lucky to sell all their watermelons – even for a low price– rather than throw them out, street vendor Bui Thi Vui in Tu Liem District said. In her home province of Hai Duong, where one kilogram of watermelon costs less than a small bundle of vegetables, many growers are trying to bargain away their watermelon stocks as quickly as possible. -- VNS


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