A government agency that uses a micro blog to help farmers sell watermelons has become an Internet sensation.
The Office for Watermelon Sales Service in Zhengzhou, Henan province, opened its micro blog on Sina Weibo, the most popular micro-blogging platform in China, on May 28. It is arguably the only government agency in China that exclusively handles watermelon sales affairs.
The office named its account "Watermelon Office" because it is simple and easy to remember, it said.
However, the name immediately aroused curiosity among netizens, many of whom said they had never heard of such a government department handling only watermelon affairs. By Thursday, the micro blog had attracted more than 22,200 followers.
A discussion among netizens focused on whether it is necessary to set up such a government agency.
Li Jianjun, a staff member of the office, said the agency was established in 2006 to help farmers sell their watermelons and increase their income. Watermelon is a major produce item in Zhengzhou and many other areas in Henan during summer and is consumed in large quantities each year.
The office is just a temporary organisation comprised of staff from various government departments, and the office operates only from June to October, the peak season for watermelon sales, Li said.
Xu Fengyong, a farmer in Anyang, Henan province, suffered a big loss last year when 250 metric tons of ripe watermelons that he grew rotted on the farmland due to rainy weather, according to one news media report. The remaining 100 tons of watermelons were also stranded on the farmland due to lack of transportation, but were later sold at lower prices after the media report was published.