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May 26, 2011

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Locals shy away from big watermelons

SALES of big watermelons have turned sluggish in Shanghai following news of exploding melons in neighboring Jiangsu Province.

The Shanghai Fruit Association assured consumers that no plant hormone, including forchlorfenuron, a growth stimulating chemical blamed for the so-called exploding melons, has been used by local farmers.

A retailer at a fruit market. on Caoyang Road complained that few people have bought watermelons in recent days, following the adverse publicity related to the fruit.

"Watermelons sold well this time round last year when the price was 4 yuan (62 US cents) a kilogram. But sales are sluggish these days though the price has dropped to 3 yuan a kilogram," said the retailer.

In contrast, small watermelons are much more popular since consumers tend to believe that no growth stimulators have been used.

"It's hard for us common consumers to tell whether a big watermelon is a product of a plant hormone or otherwise. So I prefer small ones," said a buyer surnamed Huang.

Yuan Yaxiang, an expert of the fruit association, said residents needn't worry since growth stimulators are useless under the prevailing temperatures in the city.

About 70 percent of the watermelons supplied in the local market now are produced in the suburbs. The rest comes from Hainan and Shandong provinces and eastern Jiangsu, where no cases of exploding melons have been reported.

It is expected that 300,000 tons of watermelons will be produced in the suburbs this year. The price is predicted to be higher than last year due to the inflationary trend for food products, Yuan said.

Dozens of hectares of unripe watermelons in Zhenjiang City in Jiangsu reportedly burst in early May because of improper use of the growth stimulator.

The news resulted in sluggish sales of watermelons in other areas, such as Sichuan Province, Beijing and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, because of worries over food safety, according to Xinhua news agency.


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