Agricultural suppliers expect limited impact from outbreak
Published: Jan 07, 2021 07:38 PM

Hebei file Photo: VCG

Agricultural suppliers in North China's Hebei Province, which is next to Beijing and supplies the capital with many farm products, expect to see a limited impact from tightened precautions in many parts of the province after dozens of COVID-19 cases were reported there.

As of midnight Wednesday, there were 90 locally confirmed cases in Hebei, and 144 cases of asymptomatic infection were put under medical observation. Four areas including Shijiazhuang city , have been placed under medium-high risk response, the Beijing Daily reported.

Shijiazhuang authorities said on Thursday that logistics service providers must have a permit to enter the city, and it is strictly prohibited to use unsafe vehicles or vehicles without disinfection, and anyone on board must have a valid nucleic acid test report.

Some suppliers told the Global Times that there will be only a limited impact on the production and distribution of agricultural goods from Hebei to Beijing.

Wang Shunzhai, manager of the Shunzhai farmers' cooperative in Gu'an, Hebei, told the Global Times on Thursday that getting fresh produce to Beijing now takes much longer but shipments are largely uninterrupted.

"Usually it takes only one to two hours to get to Beijing, but now it can take up to five hours," Wang said. "All truck drivers headed for Beijing must show the results of nucleic acid tests, and trucks must be thoroughly disinfected." Wang also told the Global Times that some vehicles from high-risk areas have been turned away from Beijing. 

Wang's cooperative is one of biggest fresh produce suppliers to Beijing, and he said that daily supplies are stable at about 100 tons. 

"The most affected areas in Hebei are in Xingtai and Shijiazhuang, about 300 to 400 kilometers from Beijing, and most vegetable cooperatives are not based there," Wang said. "Beijing's fresh produce comes mostly from cities like Gu'an, which are relatively closer to Beijing. As far as I know, most have not been affected."

A representative at the Jingxi fresh produce wholesale market based in Shijiazhuang, a major supplier to Beijing, told the Global Times that sales have been stable now. 

The person said that only people working with cold-chain products are required to take COVID-19 nucleic acid tests, but overall supplies, including vegetables sent to Beijing, have been stable.

A source with Wumart told the Global Times on Thursday that in addition to the secondary disinfection of all products, they are looking for substitutes from low-risk areas in other provinces. Meanwhile, in order to cope with future demand, it is estimated that the company's stock of products for the Spring Festival will increase by 30 percent

Dou Xiaobo, senior agricultural analyst at China International Electronic Commerce Center, told the Global Times that the disruption to Beijing's food supplies will be regional and temporary.

"The vegetables that Beijing gets from Hebei are mainly sweet potatoes, potatoes, and Chinese cabbage, but that's only about 25 percent of the market, and there are sufficient alternatives from areas like East China's Shandong Province and Jiangsu Province," said Dou.

The cold wave is more of a problem, with freezing temperatures affecting cauliflower, cabbage and green onions in Hubei, Jiangsu and Yunnan provinces. Dou said that prices for some vegetables will surge in the next two weeks and that trend will continue ahead of the Spring Festival.

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