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Demand for Lemons Surges as Chinese Seek Immunity Against Covid

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Business is suddenly booming for China’s lemon farmers as citizens turn to natural remedies to fight a mounting wave of Covid infections.

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(Bloomberg) — Business is suddenly booming for China’s lemon farmers as citizens turn to natural remedies to fight a mounting wave of Covid infections.

“The market is very much on fire,” said one farmer called Wen, who only gave his surname when reached by phone. Wen grows lemons on about 130 acres (53 hectares) in Anyue, a county in the southwestern province of Sichuan that produces around 70% of the fruit in China. He said his sales have skyrocketed to 20 to 30 tons a day over the past week, from just 5 or 6 tons previously. 

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The surge in demand for Wen’s lemons is coming from cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where people are rushing to buy foods rich in vitamin C to boost their immunity in the latest battle against the pandemic. As cold and flu medicines run short, it’s yet another example of how an unprepared public is being forced to contend with the government’s abrupt shift away from the Covid Zero policies that have ruled for the past three years. 

“Lemon prices have doubled in the past four or five days,” said another farmer in Anyue, who goes by the name Liu Yanjing. Liu said he’s working 14 hours a day to deal with the orders flying in from all over the country. Prior to the latest surge, lemons were selling for 2 or 3 yuan per half kilo, or around 30 to 40 US cents. Now they’re 6 yuan, he said.

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Sales of other fruits including oranges and pears are also soaring on Dingdong Maicai, an e-commerce platform selling fresh produce, according to local media. Canned yellow peaches are another item in demand, as some Chinese believe that the cold and sweet fruit can improve the appetite, especially when you’re sick. Sales of the product at Freshippo, a grocery chain owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., have risen nearly 900%, according to one report.

Just last month, China’s fruit and vegetable farmers were fretting over tons of fresh produce that were piling up because of the effect of the country’s stringent virus curbs on transportation. The price of lemons in the villages of Anyue fell to almost to nothing as stockpiles built with no domestic or export markets to sell to, leading to heavy losses for farmers, according to Wen. That’s now all changed. 

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“It seems people have suddenly realized lemons are good,” said his fellow farmer Liu. “I hope the awareness will last.”

The Week’s Diary

(All times Beijing unless noted otherwise.) 

Tuesday, Dec. 20

  • China sets monthly loan prime rates, 09:15
  • China Nov. output data for base metals and oil products
  • China’s 3rd batch of Nov. trade data, including country breakdowns for energy and commodities

Wednesday, Dec. 21

  • CCTD’s weekly online briefing on China’s coal market, 15:00

Thursday, Dec. 22

Friday, Dec. 23

  • China weekly iron ore port stockpiles
  • Shanghai exchange weekly commodities inventory, ~15:30

On The Wire

Chinese banks maintained their benchmark lending rates for a fourth month, with economists predicting a possible reduction to the mortgage reference rate in coming months to help the struggling property sector.

(Updates with diary items)

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