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Falsely labeled crabs upset the market

By Tang Zhihao (China Daily)

13:17, October 15, 2012

A fisherman showing reporters Yangchenghu hairy crabs that he has just caught in Yangcheng Lake, Jiangsu province. Every mid-autumn season, Yangchenghu crabs, the most popular delicacy of its kind in China, come under the media's spotlight. However, buyers' preferences for genuine Yangchenghu crabs are not being met with increasing quality and a better pricing system this year, and there is again news about falsely labeled crabs being sold. [Photo/China Daily]

"I was told there are many fake Yangchenghu crabs. It is very hard to verify the authenticity, although all crabs traders claim their crabs are authentic," said Li. "It would have made me feel bad if I had paid the price for authentic Yangchenghu crabs but received fake ones".

Yangcheng is a freshwater lake northeast of Suzhou in Jiangsu province. Hairy crabs from there are known as the best and tastiest crabs in China because of their good living environment and high nutritional value.

For many Chinese gourmands, especially those in Shanghai, Jiangsu province and Zhejiang province, eating Yangchenghu (or Yangcheng Lake) hairy crabs has become a must in autumn. With the increasing brand awareness, cities including Beijing have also reported increasing demand for the delicacy in recent years.

The end of October is the best season to enjoy crabs, when Chinese gourmands will gather around Bacheng township, Weiting township and Lianhua Island in the Yangcheng Lake area.

The statistics from Suzhou Yangcheng Lake Crab Association show the output for the crabs will be around 2,200 tons in 2012. The crabs will be distributed around China according to local demand with large cities receiving a higher proportion.

The increasing demand has led to Yangchenghu crabs being traded at higher prices than others in the market. In Shanghai, a pair of authentic Yangchenghu crabs can be sold for more than 100 yuan ($15.75), the heavier the more expensive. Crabs not native to Yangcheng Lake are often sold for less than 10 yuan each.

However, buyers' preferences for genuine Yangchenghu crabs is not being met with increasing quality and a better pricing system. Almost every year there is news about falsely labeled crabs being sold.

This year, some vendors in East China's Fujian province were reported to be selling falsely labeled crabs even before the authentic crabs were officially on sale from Sept 22.

In other cases, some traders purchase crabs from other regions such as Anhui and Shandong provinces in East China and then put the crabs into Yangcheng Lake for a few days before selling them.

The crabs will be traded at the same price as authentic crabs and buyers will be told the crabs are from the lake. Industry insiders said it is the best way to generate quick profits in a short time. Even worse, some traders just sell falsely labeled crabs without transporting them to Yangcheng Lake.

For some crabs traders, selling falsely labeled crabs generates higher and quicker profits. Insiders said the profit margin will be around 50 percent.

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