China / Hot Issues

Crab sellers feel pinch from drive to curb corruption

By ZHAO XINYING (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-24 07:19

As sales drop, store owners slash prices for legendary crustaceans

It's been a hard year for Wang Qiang, who has run a store in Beijing's Hepingli community for more than 10 years selling expensive crabs, including the renowned Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs.

Wang sold more than 250 kg of high-priced crabs and earned about 50,000 yuan ($8,130) during last year's crab season, which traditionally runs from Mid-Autumn Festival to the following March or April.

However, although this year's season has only just started and the first batch of Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, Wang thinks that prospects for his business are gloomy.

"I'm afraid the sales volume may drop by more than 50 percent compared with last year," he said.

Wang said people used to buy the crabs as festival gifts rather than to eat at home, because they are expensive. "Now, very few want to buy these crabs to give as presents, with the ongoing Party anti-corruption campaign," he said.

The Communist Party of China launched the anti-graft drive after its 18th Party Congress in 2012, and since then a number of senior officials have fallen from grace for corruption.

High-end restaurants and high-priced mooncakes have also been affected.

Ma Huaide, vice-president of China University of Political Science and Law, said many types of consumption involving public funds have been restricted since 2012, especially after an eight-point code aimed at cutting bureaucracy and maintaining close ties with the public was released.

Huang Hua, who owns a Yangcheng Lake hairy crab store in Beijing's Chaoyang district, said she and the store are facing difficult times.

Each year before the crab season, the store sold crab vouchers worth several hundred yuan each and customers could use them to buy the famous crustaceans when the season arrived.

"But this year, we haven't sold any to date," Huang said, adding that the effectiveness of the anti-corruption campaign is clear.

"I'm worried about paying the rent for our store, because we have been running at a loss for a period," she said.

Lan Qin, saleswoman for a Yangcheng Lake crab store on online shopping platform Taobao, said sales of the crabs and vouchers appear to have fallen, but declined to give a specific figure.

"We have changed the validity period for the vouchers," she said, adding that previously they were valid for the current year, while the vouchers issued this year will be valid forever.

Wang has reduced prices to improve sales. He is selling 200-gram large crabs for 80 yuan each this year, compared with 100 yuan previously.

"I'm not sure whether it will work," he said. "It seems that the good old days may never return again."

Ma said that as the anti-corruption campaign continues, related sectors could be in for hard times.

An Baijie and Lyu Qiaoye contributed to this story.

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