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A recent increase in the price of green onions, an ingredient used in many Chinese dishes, has caused a stir among residents in various parts of the country as well as among the online community.
Insiders, though, said the price rise will be curbed by the arrival of spring green onions at market.
Shao Wenxiang, a 65-year-old housewife in Jinan, Shandong province, is extremely careful now about how she handles green onions, taking time to prevent their leaves from falling off. Just a year ago, though, she didn't hesitate to remove yellowed leaves.
"It is so expensive," Shao said. "A big leaf costs nearly 1 yuan (16 cents)."
Like ginger and garlic, green onions are a daily part of many Chinese diets. In northern parts of the country, many people eat them raw.
The price of green onions has risen quickly in the country since February, the fastest increases taking place in Beijing and Shandong, according to agriculture statistics released by Xinhua News Agency.
The average wholesale price for 1 kilogram of green onions reached a high of 7.20 yuan at the Beijing Dayang Road Agricultural Product Market on March 15, while the price was 4.79 yuan at the Shouguang Fruits and Vegetables Market in Shandong, a large source of green onions.
"Just yesterday, I bought green onions at a price of 7 yuan a kilogram at the market," said Zhang Ying, a 54-year-old from Qingdao, Shandong province.
"I prefer garlic and onions when I cook, since green onions are so expensive."
The rising price may benefit green onion wholesalers this year but not retailers.
"The price is indeed much higher than last year, but the amount I sold is less since many buyers give up or buy only one or two green onions after they've heard the price," said a retailer who declined to give her name and was selling vegetables at the Li Tianhong Residential Area Vegetable Market in Beijing's Chaoyang district said.
One of the retailer's colleagues, Xu Xihan, had similar thoughts.
"Actually what we earned was less than what we got when the price was low," Xu said. "The cost of buying green onions is also high."
She said she bought green onions from a wholesale trader for 8.4 yuan a kilogram and sold them for 10 yuan a kilogram.
"I don't think the price will stay high," Xu said. "It's already 0.5 yuan cheaper than yesterday's price."
Some, though, have found a way to make money.
Shi Yunjie, a wholesale trader in Pingyi, Shandong province, said he made a little money out of green onions this year.
"The green onions I collected last year were sold out at a price of between 2.6 yuan and 2.8 yuan for each kilogram, much higher than the price I paid when I got the green onions," Shi said.
He declined to say how much he earned from selling green onions.
Shi said he doubts the vegetable's price will continue to rise since spring green onions will be on the market in a month.
Shi, who has been in the vegetable trade for 10 years, blamed the rising price on the weather.
"The cold weather last winter and this spring has caused there to be fewer green onions," Shi said.
The root cause of the higher prices is that the supply of green onions has fallen behind the demand for them, said Nie Binghua, director of the Shandong Economic Management Institute.
Nie said the vegetable's price at this time last year had hit a low of less than 0.5 yuan a kilogram, so some traders chose to not store fresh green onions at the end of last year. That resulted in a lack of green onions at markets at a time when the spring variety was still growing.