The summer fruit season has returned to Hong Kong with cheaper but fewer cherries from the United States for a disturbing reason. The US – primarily the northwest region, which is the biggest supplier of cherries in the city – saw farmers complaining about soured consumer confidence in the juicy produce after a viral video on social media showed maggots in the fruit.
A key Hong Kong importer of American cherries said on Wednesday wholesale prices were broadly weaker this time than last year due to confidence issues even though the produce was about 30 per cent lower in volume and its quality fared better than that of the last season.
“It is a pity the video turned off some shoppers,” said Leo Lai, the 27-year-old heir to a family-owned fruit import firm in Hong Kong. “Retailers – such as supermarkets – and some wholesalers have hesitated to import more cherries this year, fearing the stock will be hard to sell.”
Lai, whose family has been into the business in Hong Kong for the past 40 years, is travelling to Washington to source the fruit from the farms. Ironically, he found the demand for cherries on mainland China to be stronger than in Hong Kong, despite the US-China trade war.
“I have sold more cherries to Shanghai and Guangzhou than to Hong Kong so far this month, even with the 63.5 per cent tariffs and taxes,” he told reporters. He added the Washington cherries he sourced for Hong Kong were less than half a container – a 20-feet equivalent unit – every day so far this month, while the cherries sourced for China were as many as two containers a day.
The video showing maggots moving inside cherries went viral on Facebook and was viewed about 41 million times. The shocking clip did not mention where the cherries came from nor when was it shot.