China Watermelon Woes Continue With Price Drop

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No one wants to see their investment go up in smoke. Yet for growers and sellers of China's "exploding watermelons", that's just what's happened. We reported on this food scare earlier--now we return for a look at the economic aftermath.

It's hard to make a living as a fruit vendor, at least when your product resembles a low-grade weapon more than a recognizable food substance.

That's the grim reality in farms and marketplaces dealing with sharply falling watermelon prices. Markets in Chongqing saw some of the steepest decreases.

[Watermelon wholesaler]
"The selling price is 17 or 18 cents per pound, but last year it was 24 or 25 cents. It's dropped from 36 cents per pound to the current price."

The sudden price fall has come due to the recent "explosion" phenomenon. Watermelons grown with the aid of a chemical growth promoter began loudly bursting open when ripe.

There's been no conclusive evidence the chemically-treated melons are harmful. But they can spoil after splitting and have scared off buyers of even untreated watermelons.

[Watermelon wholesaler]
"A cartload of watermelons could be sold out in a day or several hours in the past. But now it takes two or three days, and sometimes even six or seven."

For some, there's simply no hope of profit. There are markets where as many as 80 to 90 percent of watermelon vendors have shut up shop.

Meanwhile, one of China's most popular fruits has swiftly become the latest product safety scandal. When consumer confidence fails, even a once-stable commodity investment can blow up in one's face.

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