Fighting Food Inflation in Shanghai

While their boats were moored along the Huangpu River, southwest of the Bund, Shanghai’s Shangchuan Huiguan (商船会馆), or Merchant Shipping Hall, accommodated traders both wheeling and dealing and seeking to rest for the night.

While the Hall itself is authorized for preservation, all the surrounding living quarters have fallen to the wrecking ball. A family from Anhui currently lives on the site, responsible for organizing the razing. On my last trip, I noticed many plots of vegetables surrounding the Hall, on what had been rubble only months ago. Any leftover vegetables were laid out to dry in various parts of the house.

Inflation has grown to be a serious problem in China, hitting a 28-month high at 5.1% in November. Food prices have been among the most havily impacted, alone soaring over 10%. Residents have complained that staples like garlic, ginger and mung/soy beans have doubled in prices. This is a result of smaller harvests due to poor weather conditions, hoarding of food supplies and speculation of food prices. As a result, the government has stepped up grain reserves distribution to rural families, along with other vegetable staples if necessary.

In an effort to reduce costs and manage their own food supplies, migrant families have started to grow their own small plots of vegetables, including bok choy, cabbage, spring onions.

Nearby, another crumbling structure housed workers from Chongqing who have developed an ambitious farm plot, managed communally by neighbors living in individual shanty shacks. The plots had been planted for three months and were soon to be harvested, one lady proudly tells me. Squatting amidst her kingdom of wild greens, she used scraps of string to hold up her cabbage plants, allowing them to grow vertically. Some looked a bit weak, clearly ravaged by the surrounding construction and dust.

A year ago, concrete blocks and old alley houses filled this several block radius of land. Six months later, it had been covered by excavators, sand, scrap and rubble. Now, wild grass popped up in random tufts, in contrast to the neat rows of edible vegetation. The living space of the migrant families making their home in the demolition site may shrink or grow, but they are at least able make do with whatever arable land they can find in the face of growing inflation. 

This post was revised and cross-posted from Shanghai Street Stories.

This entry was written by Sue Anne Tay , posted on Tuesday December 14 2010at 01:12 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Food, Heritage and Preservation, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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