Yunnan’s agricultural products risk rotting in the fields amid virus

By Ma Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/17 21:31:52

A view of sorghum in Luoping county, Southwest China's Yunnan Province in October 2019 Photo: cnsphotos

The novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) is putting tons of fruits and vegetables in Southwest China's Yunnan Province - an important agricultural product exporter to Southeast Asian nations - at risk of rotting as exports have been hindered by transportation problems.

"I have lost over 1 million yuan ($143,000) after resuming exports on January 30, and continue to see losses," said a produce trader surnamed Li in Tonghai county, the largest vegetable-growing and distribution center in Yunnan.

Li mainly exports mandarin oranges and apples to Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia. Just a few days ago, he transported mandarin oranges worth almost 600,000 yuan to Hekou - a customs township in Yunnan that is 300 kilometers away from Tonghai - for shipping to Vietnam. "But as Vietnam delayed customs clearance due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, our oranges piled up at Hekou and rotted," he told the Global Times.

Another vegetable trader surnamed Luo in Tonghai suspended exports, saying the inspection and quarantine procedures at customs have become much more complicated.

In 2019, Yunnan exported 21.3 billion yuan worth of agricultural products to Southeast Asia, accounting for 64.3 percent of the province's total exports of agricultural products, official data showed. Exports of local specialties such as apples, vegetables, tobacco and flowers all maintained growth.

However, the shutting of roads in many townships and villages to avoid the spread of the coronavirus resulted in an export plunge, as it blocks traders from buying crops from farmers across the county as well as the return of workers.

Li said that only 20 of his over 100 employees have returned to work, and he exports only a small amount of vegetables grown in villages near his company.

As vegetables can't be transported from rural areas and sold, a trader surnamed Xie in Hani-Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Honghe, Yunnan, thought of donating them to epicenter Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province. 

"Ten buses carrying potatoes, Chinese cabbages and radishes will set off to Wuhan on Tuesday," Xie told the Global Times. Xie's company is engaged in exporting agricultural products to Southeast Asia and Russia, and orders are falling and he is struggling to survive.

To help farmers sell agricultural products, domestic e-commerce platform Alibaba-backed Taobao launched a targeted online project on February 7 and sold over 1.5 million kilograms of fruits, vegetables and other products. Another e-commerce platform Pinduoduo offered subsidies of 500 million yuan for selling agricultural products.

"Although we're hit hard, we're unlikely to go bankrupt," Xie said, noting that he is trying his best to survive.


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