GUANGZHOU - The price of rice in most shops in this Guangdong provincial capital have increased 10 percent in the past month due to the severe drought in southwestern China.
Huang Weijuan, a Guangzhou housewife, said she spent 55 yuan ($8) to buy a bag of rice in Taojin agricultural bazaar in the city's Yuexiu district over the weekend.
"But the price for the same bag of rice, which weighs 20 kg, was about 50 yuan a month ago," Huang said.
And the price of courgette, a vegetable which mainly grows in Yunnan province, is now selling at 5 yuan per kg in the bazaar, up 0.5 yuan from last month, Huang said.
"The price of many foods and vegetables have gone up in the past month and I worry that prices will keep increasing," she said.
"I've heard in the media that the drought in southwestern China will not ease up until May," she said.
According to a report from Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News, some traders have been investigated for trying to corner the market for rice and Chinese herbs in case of a future price hike in Guangzhou.
And relevant departments have promised to launch an investigation and punish those who illegally raise prices.
A grocery boss who only gave his family name as Mo said he had to raise the price of rice because his costs have grown in the past month.
Zeng Xingfu, deputy director of the price supervision center under the Guangdong provincial bureau of prices, however, refuted the drought in southwestern China had led to the price hike for rice, vegetables and other foods in the southern province.
"Southwestern China, including Yunnan and Guizhou provinces that have been hardest hit by the drought, is not a major grain production base in the country, and the provinces in southwestern China are not the major source regions for Guangdong's grains," Zeng said.
He said Guangdong mainly purchases grains from bordering Hunan and Jiangxi provinces.
"The drought in southwestern China will not result in the fluctuation of grain prices in the whole country as China achieved bumper grain harvests six years running up to the end of 2009," he added.
Affected by the severe drought, the prices of tea, fresh flowers and some Chinese herbs that are mainly produced in southwestern China have witnessed big increases in Guangdong in the past month.