Hairy situation for crab traders

CHINA - China's gourmet crab industry has become the latest victim of the authorities' two-year crackdown on corruption involving, among other things, high-end spirits, luxury cars and crabs.

The arrival of freshwater "hairy crab" on the market is eagerly awaited every autumn and the crustaceans used to be a sought-after delicacy.

But now, "consumption (of crabs) by government officials has dropped to almost zero," said Mr Yang Weilong, vice-chairman of a China Fisheries Association branch.

In some parts of China, hairy crab retail prices have fallen by as much as 40 per cent, Mr Yang said, to an average of about 120 yuan (S$25) for a 500g crab, AFP reported.

Demand from officials had fuelled a decade of price rises, but these days, sellers of the small green crabs can rely only on private customers.

And the anti-graft and austerity campaigns launched by China's leader Xi Jinping show little sign of abating.

Banquet fare such as crabs and expensive liquor are off the menu while the gifting of luxury goods, typically used for bribes or to launder illicit funds, has plunged.

'Less Luxury Spending'

Management consultancy Bain & Company predicted on Tuesday that luxury spending in China, celebrated as the world's largest luxury market, will shrink two per cent this year due to "greater controls" and "changing consumption patterns".

Advised Mr Yang: "It is important for major crab sellers to adjust their prices to fit general consumers, otherwise they will suffer a great collapse."

But traders are expecting losses for the season.

Mr Wang Zhiqiang, who runs a crab company, highlighted the plight of those selling what is said to be the best hairy crab - crabs from a shallow lake called Yangcheng, near Shanghai .

"Since Yangcheng Lake crab is mainly a gift, limits on publicly funded consumption are fatal to sales," he said.

This article was first published on October 16, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.