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Drought-stricken southwest China moves to curb food price hikes

2010-03-26 08:58 BJT

Special Report: SW China Battles Severe Drought |

by Li Baojie, Wang Ruoyao

BEIJING, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Local authorities in southwest China are moving to clamp down on food price hikes as the worst drought in decades shows no sign of easing.

Authorities in Guiyang, capital of the poverty-stricken mountainous Guizhou province, have indicated they would step up price monitoring and crack down on price gouging.

Vegetable vendors will be fined up to 100,000 yuan (14,650 U.S. dollars) if they are found involved in jacking up vegetable prices. The maximum fine for businesses is 1 million yuan.

In Kunming, capital of the hardest-hit Yunnan province, the local government is monitoring food prices and supply on a daily basis. Local price control and industry and commerce authorities have launched campaigns to crack down on food hoarding and price gouging.

Local governments in their neighboring regions have taken similar measures to prevent huge rises in prices of grain, edible oil, and vegetables.

The dry weather has been ravaging southwest China for months, affecting 61.3 million residents and 5 million hectares of crops in Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Chongqing, and Guangxi.

The worsening drought has damaged wide swathes of vegetables and sparked sharp price hikes. Many vegetable prices have more than doubled.

Hou Junfa, a purchasing manager in a hotel in Nanning, capital of Guangxi, said vegetable prices continued to surge even after the Chinese Lunar New Year when prices usually fall.

Wang Wenying, a wholesaler in Nanning, said that prices of onion and potato continued to rise because of output declines in Yunnan, a main vegetable producing region.

The price hikes have resulted in increases in household expending.

A local resident in Nanning, surnamed Yang, said he spent five yuan more on vegetables than a month ago.

Some residents choose to buy cheaper vegetables to cut household expending.