Reported use of growth enhancers that contributed to the explosion of watermelons in Jiangsu Province has left the local Beijing watermelon market a little volatile.
“Watermelon sales have been obviously impacted by the growth enhancement allegations, reducing them by about half compared to last May,” a fruit vendor surnamed Pang at the Tuanjiehubei Produce Market in Chaoyang district told the Global Times Wednesday.
Two out of three watermelon vendors in the market confirmed that sales had slumped, and that many customers have taken to asking if their melons were tainted with the growth enhancer forchlorfenuron.
“Some of my customers even rapped heavily on the watermelons to see if they’d burst,” Pang said.
In the village of Dalü, Jiangsu Province, 67 percent of Liu Mingsuo’s 3.11 hectares of watermelons exploded after he sprayed forchlorfenuron and instant calcium on May 6 to accelerate their growth, Xinhua reported on May 17.
The public became alarmed by such reports shortly before the watermelon high season.
Some of Pang’s melons were labeled as being from Hainan Province.
“Now we only buy melons from Daxing and Shunyi,” Pang said. “Local farmers haven’t used growth promoters.”
A fruit salesperson at a Jenny Lou’s supermarket said business has not been affected, and a customer said she had not heard of the exploding melons.
Daxing watermelon producers are feeling frustrated by the situation, according to a Beijing News report Wednesday.
A Daxing farmer told the newspaper that she did not sell a single watermelon all day Tuesday, but that in past years she typically could sell at least 25 kilograms of melons per day.
The remaining few customers always asked about forchlorfenuron, the paper reported.
Agronomist Liu Guodong with the Daxing Planting Service Center said that Daxing’s watermelons do not use the growth accelerator.
He told the Beijing News that Daxing supplies about 230 million kilograms of watermelons to Beijing annually.
“The forchlorfenuron is a plant growth regulator, a kind of pesticide,” Pan Wenjing, a Greenpeace food and agriculture campaigner, told the Global Times Wednesday.
The Chinese national standard for pesticide residue in food does not specify forchlorfenuron, “so it’s hard to supervise for forchlorfenuron residue in food that’s on the market,” Pan said.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also allows forchlorfenuron to be used on grapes and kiwifruits, according to a 2004 EPA fact sheet.