Veteran Xinfadi merchants voice revival optimism
After working for two decades in the Xinfadi market in south Beijing, Ma Yong, a wholesaler, saw its operations suspended for the first time.
“Over the years, the market has never encountered such a big trouble,” said Ma, 40, who was in quarantine after the large farm produce wholesale market emerged as the source of new COVID-19 cluster infections in Beijing since mid-June.
From June 11 to July 1, Beijing reported 329 confirmed locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases, most of them tied to Xinfadi.
The market, which was shut on June 13, provided about 70 percent of Beijing’s vegetables, 10 percent of pork, and 3 percent of beef and mutton. Over 100 veteran wholesalers like Ma work in the market to supply goods across the city.
Business of these veteran wholesalers was affected by the new infections to different degrees, but many remain upbeat about the market’s future.
“Xinfadi wholesale market has given us a chance to change our fate,” said Ma, who came from a village in central Henan Province, and over the years, started building a successful business from scratch in the market.
The new infections came as surprise for Ma, one of the major vegetable wholesalers at Xinfadi. Business was interrupted, products were backlogged while his customers made countless calls urging deliveries.
“Our employees were also under quarantine, so no one was around to send deliveries. It was really difficult,” Ma said.
In a bid to ensure market supply, local authorities set up a temporary trading area for vegetables after the market was shut, as well as three cargo turnover stations later in the suburbs, offering Ma and other wholesalers an opportunity to tide over the difficulty.
Ma used to handle 70 to 80 tons of vegetables daily before the new infections were reported. Recently, the quantity has recovered to 30 tons a day.
“We just have to hang on. Nothing can destroy us,” he stated. “We cannot afford to lose customers and suppliers.”
Due to the restrictions in Xinfadi, Wang Dong, a veteran wholesaler of fruits, rerouted many of his products to other distribution centers in neighboring Hebei Province.
During the epidemic earlier this year, Wang donated tons of vegetables to the worst-hit Hubei Province and witnessed the local situation improve over the past few months.
“We have accumulated nearly half a year of experience in fighting the epidemic, and I am confident that we will overcome this new infection,” Wang said.
The epidemic control measures have dealt a blow to his business, too, but Wang supports these efforts. “They are enforced to avoid greater impact and more severe losses, and for a better future of the market,” he insisted.
Li Guoqing, a staple food wholesaler who has worked in the market for 19 years, said the interruption of his business due to the new infections provided him a rare opportunity to reflect on his business.
“As a wholesaler, we had to keep running; otherwise, we would be phased out,” said Li, 47. “Many wholesalers in the market feel uncomfortable due to the sudden interruption of their business, but we are finally able to have a rare break.
“I hope that the market will be reborn after the epidemic, and continue to progress.”