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Falsely labeled crabs upset the market

Updated: 2012-10-15 09:34
By Tang Zhihao in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Mark-up for genuine Yangchenghu crustaceans can be as much as 700%

Falsely labeled crabs upset the market

A fisherman showing reporters Yangchenghu hairy crabs that he has just caught in Yangcheng Lake, Jiangsu province. Every mid-autumn season, Yangchenghu crabs, the most popular delicacy of its kind in China, come under the media's spotlight. However, buyers' preferences for genuine Yangchenghu crabs are not being met with increasing quality and a better pricing system this year, and there is again news about falsely labeled crabs being sold. [Photo/China Daily] 

Falsely labeled crabs upset the market

Li Yiqi, a businessman in Ma'anshan, Anhui province, planned to buy some sought-after Yangchenghu hairy crabs as gifts for his friends and family members for the Mid-Autumn Festival this year. However, he did not put the plan into operation.

"I was told there are many fake Yangchenghu crabs. It is very hard to verify the authenticity, although all crabs traders claim their crabs are authentic," said Li. "It would have made me feel bad if I had paid the price for authentic Yangchenghu crabs but received fake ones".

Yangcheng is a freshwater lake northeast of Suzhou in Jiangsu province. Hairy crabs from there are known as the best and tastiest crabs in China because of their good living environment and high nutritional value.

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For many Chinese gourmands, especially those in Shanghai, Jiangsu province and Zhejiang province, eating Yangchenghu (or Yangcheng Lake) hairy crabs has become a must in autumn. With the increasing brand awareness, cities including Beijing have also reported increasing demand for the delicacy in recent years.

The end of October is the best season to enjoy crabs, when Chinese gourmands will gather around Bacheng township, Weiting township and Lianhua Island in the Yangcheng Lake area.

The statistics from Suzhou Yangcheng Lake Crab Association show the output for the crabs will be around 2,200 tons in 2012. The crabs will be distributed around China according to local demand with large cities receiving a higher proportion.

The increasing demand has led to Yangchenghu crabs being traded at higher prices than others in the market. In Shanghai, a pair of authentic Yangchenghu crabs can be sold for more than 100 yuan ($15.75), the heavier the more expensive. Crabs not native to Yangcheng Lake are often sold for less than 10 yuan each.

However, buyers' preferences for genuine Yangchenghu crabs is not being met with increasing quality and a better pricing system. Almost every year there is news about falsely labeled crabs being sold.

This year, some vendors in East China's Fujian province were reported to be selling falsely labeled crabs even before the authentic crabs were officially on sale from Sept 22.

In other cases, some traders purchase crabs from other regions such as Anhui and Shandong provinces in East China and then put the crabs into Yangcheng Lake for a few days before selling them.

The crabs will be traded at the same price as authentic crabs and buyers will be told the crabs are from the lake. Industry insiders said it is the best way to generate quick profits in a short time. Even worse, some traders just sell falsely labeled crabs without transporting them to Yangcheng Lake.

For some crabs traders, selling falsely labeled crabs generates higher and quicker profits. Insiders said the profit margin will be around 50 percent.

"If we tell buyers those crabs are from Yangcheng Lake, the best price is 600 yuan a kilogram. But if we say the crabs are from other breeding bases, the same crabs will be worth about 80 yuan in the ordinary market," said a trader in Gaochun county, Nanjing, who declined to give his name. He has traded falsely labeled Yangchenghu crabs for years in the capital city of Jiangsu province.

In addition, some crabs traded at extremely low prices online also make people uncertain as to what is the true value of Yangchenghu hairy crabs.

Industry experts said the fake products not only have a negative impact on customers' confidence, but also give the wrong signal to local crab breeders.

"If fake crabs continue to be traded in the market, it will not only have a detrimental effect on the reputation of Yangchenghu crabs, but Yangcheng Lake crab breeders will also be confused about which is right direction for developing the industry," said Zhang Guodong, general manager of Suzhou Yangchengyuhuo Biological Breeding Cooperative. The cooperative is a crab breeding and trading expertise association in the Yangcheng Lake area with 133.33 hectares of water area. The main clients for the cooperative are companies.

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