JINAN -- Some supermarkets, school and company canteens are on a buying spree in east China's Shandong province as the government urged them to help relieve farmers from an oversupply of vegetables.
Municipal authorities should take immediate actions to "help farmers tackle difficulties in selling their produce and maintain a stable market," said a notice from Shandong's commerce department Friday.
Farmers had been throwing away unsalable vegetables, the prices of which plunged after vegetables in north China ripened early, impacting the market already saturated with vegetables from southern China.
After a heavy loss from his cabbage land, farmer Han Jin committed suicide on April 16 in Jinan city, capital of Shandong, attracting public attention on the oversupply's influence on farmers' lives.
Cabbage was sold at less than 0.2 yuan per kilogram while it cost more than one yuan to grow. Han was deep in debt, his wife said.
Some farmers blamed vegetable dealers for worsening the situation. They said the vegetables were sold at prices many times higher than what the dealers offered them.
Some local farmers said they did not have much say in the prices. "Vegetables cannot remain fresh for long. They are worthless when left behind by the dealers' trucks," said farmer Han Daokun.
Distribution is key to the problem. Each link in distribution will increase the price by 10 to 15 percent. And there are many links, said Ling Donghua, research fellow at the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences.
Individual farmers need to be united to avoid risks. Associations can connect farmers with the market and guide them to avoid oversupplies, said Sun Jixiang, secretary general of the Shandong Vegetable Association.
Vegetable prices dropped by 9.8 percent on average last week. The prices have dropped by 16.2 percent in the past three weeks, according to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce.