As Chinese Tastes Change, Farmers Everywhere Rip Up and Replant
Kanebridge News
    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,581,977 (+0.10%)       Melbourne $970,512 (+0.23%)       Brisbane $885,023 (+0.03%)       Adelaide $813,016 (+0.20%)       Perth $760,003 (-0.11%)       Hobart $733,438 (-1.28%)       Darwin $643,022 (-0.79%)       Canberra $970,902 (+1.87%)       National $1,000,350 (+0.23%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $721,725 (+0.37%)       Melbourne $488,237 (-0.76%)       Brisbane $495,283 (+1.37%)       Adelaide $404,022 (-2.77%)       Perth $405,420 (-0.69%)       Hobart $498,278 (-1.60%)       Darwin $339,700 (-0.58%)       Canberra $480,910 (-0.04%)       National $502,695 (-0.26%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,626 (-230)       Melbourne 15,220 (+56)       Brisbane 8,417 (-24)       Adelaide 2,720 (-9)       Perth 6,897 (+56)       Hobart 1,234 (+5)       Darwin 281 (+5)       Canberra 1,079 (-30)       National 46,474 (-171)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,563 (-253)       Melbourne 8,007 (-12)       Brisbane 1,824 (-34)       Adelaide 493 (-16)       Perth 1,902 (-1)       Hobart 176 (+4)       Darwin 388 (-7)       Canberra 858 (+2)       National 22,211 (-317)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $775 (-$5)       Melbourne $570 ($0)       Brisbane $600 ($0)       Adelaide $580 (+$10)       Perth $625 (-$5)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $690 (-$10)       Canberra $680 ($0)       National $642 (-$2)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $730 ($0)       Melbourne $550 ($0)       Brisbane $625 ($0)       Adelaide $460 (+$10)       Perth $580 (+$5)       Hobart $460 (+$10)       Darwin $550 ($0)       Canberra $560 (-$5)       National $576 (+$2)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,654 (+231)       Melbourne 5,764 (+128)       Brisbane 4,271 (-9)       Adelaide 1,259 (+101)       Perth 1,944 (+50)       Hobart 337 (-36)       Darwin 168 (+19)       Canberra 647 (+18)       National 20,044 (+502)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 9,121 (+505)       Melbourne 6,022 (+34)       Brisbane 2,066 (+18)       Adelaide 366 (+1)       Perth 600 (-5)       Hobart 138 (-17)       Darwin 306 (+12)       Canberra 736 (+20)       National 19,355 (+568)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 2.55% (↓)       Melbourne 3.05% (↓)       Brisbane 3.53% (↓)     Adelaide 3.71% (↑)        Perth 4.28% (↓)     Hobart 3.90% (↑)        Darwin 5.58% (↓)       Canberra 3.64% (↓)       National 3.34% (↓)            UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 5.26% (↓)     Melbourne 5.86% (↑)        Brisbane 6.56% (↓)     Adelaide 5.92% (↑)      Perth 7.44% (↑)      Hobart 4.80% (↑)      Darwin 8.42% (↑)        Canberra 6.06% (↓)     National 5.96% (↑)             HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.7% (↑)      Melbourne 0.8% (↑)      Brisbane 0.4% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 1.2% (↑)      Hobart 0.6% (↑)      Darwin 1.1% (↑)      Canberra 0.7% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.4% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.3% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 1.5% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.3% (↑)      National 0.9% (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND       Sydney 28.0 (↑)      Melbourne 29.2 (↑)        Brisbane 30.6 (↓)       Adelaide 23.8 (↓)     Perth 34.2 (↑)      Hobart 29.4 (↑)      Darwin 39.9 (↑)      Canberra 28.2 (↑)      National 30.4 (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND       Sydney 29.4 (↑)      Melbourne 29.6 (↑)        Brisbane 30.3 (↓)       Adelaide 22.5 (↓)       Perth 39.2 (↓)     Hobart 26.1 (↑)        Darwin 36.1 (↓)     Canberra 34.4 (↑)        National 31.0 (↓)           
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As Chinese Tastes Change, Farmers Everywhere Rip Up and Replant

The windfall is transforming entire regions, but some are starting to worry: What if China stops buying?

Wed, Nov 22, 2023 8:30amGrey Clock 4 min

EA YONG, Vietnam—In the verdant highlands of central Vietnam, warehouses the size of airplane hangars dominate small farming towns, bristling with mounds of tropical fruit. The bounty is destined for a colossal market: China.

Farmers are felling coffee trees traditionally grown in this cool hilly region to plant spiky durians, pungent fruits that have become wildly popular in China. They are reaping the windfall to buy new irrigation systems, pay off loans and build shiny marble facades to their homes.

“We locals aren’t just doing well, we can even be considered rich,” said Pham Van Trung, 54, as he ate a late lunch of pork and rice wine. Trung made $81,000 this year selling durian, and said the region was swarming with Chinese buyers.

China’s appetite for foreign produce has grown in recent decades along with the wealth of its consumers. The amount of food the world’s second most populous nation imports has risen to over $200 billion a year—more than any other country—from about $15 billion two decades ago, according to the World Trade Organization. Avocado farmers in Kenya, shrimp cultivators in India, soy producers in Russia and banana growers in Cambodia are all cashing in.

While economic growth in China has slowed recently and its population is shrinking, demand for nutrient-rich foods such as beef and tropical fruit has remained high.

Last year, the Chinese noshed through more than 800,000 metric tons of imported durian and nearly six million metric tons of imported meat—both world-leading totals. It bought 90 million metric tons of soybeans from overseas last year, accounting for roughly 60% of global trade, for use in making tofu and to feed the country’s hundreds of millions of pigs.

Feeding China’s massive middle class presents a historic opportunity for countries seeking to boost the incomes of people in poor, rural areas. But it also poses a quandary: how to tap in to its huge market without becoming dependent on a trade partner that can be fickle.

In recent years, China has restricted imports of Norwegian salmon, Taiwanese pineapples, Philippines bananas and Australian lobsters. It usually cites contamination, pests or issues with quality—but Beijing’s curbs have also often coincided with political disputes.

China slapped hefty antidumping duties on Australian wine exports in 2020 after Australia called for an independent probe into the origins of Covid-19. In 2012, China halted purchases from banana growers in the Philippines, saying mealybugs had been discovered in shipments, after a flare-up between the countries in the South China Sea.

“With the size of the Chinese economy, it can always use trade to punish an exporter,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C. Selling to China is “an opportunity, and it is a risk,” she said.

The risk is higher because when the chance to export to China’s massive market opens up, often entire agricultural belts go all in. This can lead to what Sun calls “singularification,” or the concentration of a local economy around one product, making it vulnerable to disruption.

Vietnamese farmers are felling coffee trees to plant durians for export to China. PHOTO: JON EMONT/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

That is what appears to be happening in Vietnam’s central highlands. The region is famed for its Robusta coffee, which is sold around the world. But last year, Beijing opened the gates to large-scale imports of Vietnamese durian—and farmers here began uprooting their coffee crops. Traders flocked to snap up the produce, causing local prices to more than double this year.

Be Duc Huynh, a 26-year-old farmer who got rid of his entire coffee crop, said he makes about five times as much from a hectare of durian as he earned from coffee. He harvested four tons of durian this year, up from one ton last year—all of it destined for China.

China buys around 90% of durian exports from Vietnam, which also sells much of its dragon fruit, bananas, mangoes and jackfruit to its giant neighbour. In recent months around 60% of Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports have gone to China, up from one-third a decade ago, according to official figures compiled by data provider CEIC.

During the autumn harvest time, the village air carried the sharp smell of the fruit. Families stacked mounds of durian in front of their homes to entice traders, who thwacked the durian shells with knife handles to test for quality. Hard means it is too young; soft means it is ripe and can sell for a higher price.

On a recent afternoon, durian trader Nguyen Thai Huyen dug into the flesh with her painted-pink fingernails, tasting bits of durian to determine their ripeness. Huyen posts snappy videos on TikTok of her visits to plantations and the mountains of durian she has on offer.

“A few years ago people considered durian a crop to reduce poverty,” she said. “Now it is the million-dollar crop.”

She has tried selling to Japan, but said buyers there only take small amounts. She isn’t especially worried about being too reliant on China, though. She says durian’s popularity has room to grow in the country, where many are still unfamiliar with the fruit.

Vietnam’s government is less certain. Earlier this year the agriculture ministry issued a warning about what state media called reckless durian cultivation, saying many farmers were abandoning traditional crops such as coffee and rice and planting durian in areas unsuited to it. Agriculture experts cited in state media have encouraged farmers to develop alternative markets to China and try to sell more of their produce locally.

Traders say that is easier said than done. The fruit has few takers outside of the region, and recent high prices put durian out of reach of many local Vietnamese.

Still, farmers say they want to be careful. In September, some fruit exports including durian were halted after Beijing complained about mealybugs and other pests. It reminded farmers of a major disruption in January 2022 when truckloads of Vietnamese produce rotted after China sealed off its southern border to contain the spread of Covid-19.

H’Meng, a farmer who goes by one name, has planted hundreds of durian trees in recent years. Now, she said, she is planning to grow more coffee. The prices are more stable, she said, because the market for coffee isn’t focused on one nation.

“I’m worried about becoming too dependent on China,” she said.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Couples find that lab-grown diamonds make it cheaper to get engaged or upgrade to a bigger ring. But there are rocky moments.

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Wedding planner Sterling Boulet has some advice for brides-to-be regarding lab-grown diamonds, which cost a fraction of the natural ones.

“If you’re trying to get your man to propose, they’ll propose faster if you offer this as an option,” says Boulet, of Raleigh, N.C. Recently, she adds, a friend’s fiancé “thanked me the next three times I saw him” for telling him about the cheaper lab-made option.

Man-made diamonds are catching on, despite some lingering stigma. This year was the first time that sales of lab-made and natural mined loose diamonds, primarily used as center stones in engagement rings, were split evenly, according to data from Tenoris, a jewellery and diamond trend-analytics company.

The rise of lab-made stones, however, is bringing up quirks alongside the perks. Now that blingier engagement rings—above two or three carats—are more affordable, more people are dealing with the peculiarities of wearing rather large rocks.

An engagement ring made with a lab-grown diamond at Ada Diamonds in New York City. PHOTO: CAM POLLACK/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Esther Hare, a 5-foot-11-inch former triathlete, sought out a 4.5-carat lab-made oval-shaped diamond to fit her larger hands as a part of her vow renewal in Hawaii last year. It was a far cry from the half-carat ring her husband proposed with more than 25 years ago and the 1.5-carat upgrade they purchased 10 years ago. Hare, 50, who lives in San Jose, Calif., and works in high tech, chose a $40,000 lab-made diamond because “it’s nuts” to have to spend $100,000 on a natural stone. “It had to be big—that was my vision,” she says.

But the size of the ring has made it less practical at times. She doesn’t wear it for athletic training and swaps in her wedding band instead. And she is careful to leave it at home when traveling. “A lot of times I won’t take it on vacation because it’s just a monster,” she says.

The average retail price for a one-carat lab-made loose diamond decreased to $1,426 this year from $3,039 in 2020, according to the Tenoris data. Similar-sized loose natural diamonds cost $5,426 this year, compared with $4,943 in 2020.

Lab-made diamonds have essentially the same chemical makeup as natural ones, and look the same, unless viewed through sophisticated equipment that gauges the characteristics of emitted light.

At Ritani, an online jewellery retailer, lab-made diamond sales make up about 70% of the diamonds sold, up from roughly 30% two years ago, says Juliet Gomes, head of customer service at the company, based in White Plains, N.Y.

Ritani sometimes records videos of the lab-diamonds pinging when exposed to a “diamond tester,” a tool that judges authenticity, to show customers that the man-made rocks behave the same as natural ones. We definitely have some deep conversations with them,” Gomes says.

Not all gem dealers are rolling with these stones.

Philadelphia jeweller Steven Singer only stocks the natural stuff in his store and is planning a February campaign to give about 1,000 one-carat lab-made diamonds away free to prove they are “worthless.” Anyone can sign up online and get one in the mail; even shipping is free. “I’m not selling Frankensteins that were built in a lab,” Singer says.

Some brides are turned off by the larger bling now allowed by the lower prices.When her now-husband proposed with a two-carat lab-grown engagement ring, Tiffany Buchert, 40, was excited about the prospect of marriage—but not about the size of the diamond, which she says struck her as “costume jewellery-ish.”

“I said yes in the moment, of course, I didn’t want it to be weird,” says the physician assistant from West Chester, Pa.

But within weeks, she says, she fessed up, telling her fiancé: “I think I hate this ring.”

The couple returned it and then bought a one-carat natural diamond for more than double the price.

Couples find that lab-grown diamonds have made it more affordable to get engaged. PHOTO: CAM POLLACK/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

When Boulet, the wedding planner in Raleigh, got engaged herself, she was over the moon when her fiancé proposed with a 2.3 carat lab-made diamond ring. “It’s very shiny, we were almost worried it was too shiny and was going to look fake,” she says.

It doesn’t, which presents another issue—looking like someone who really shelled out for jewellery. Boulet will occasionally volunteer that her diamond ring came from a lab.

“I don’t want people to think I’m putting on airs, or trying to be flashier than I am,” she says.

For Daniel Teoh, a 36-year-old software engineer outside of Detroit, buying a cheaper lab-made diamond for his fiancée meant extra room in his $30,000 ring budget.

Instead of a bigger ring, he got her something they could both enjoy. During a walk while on an annual ski trip to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Teoh popped the question and handed his now-wife a handmade wooden box that included a 2.5-carat lab-made diamond ring—and a car key.

She put on the ring, celebrated with both of their sisters and a friend, who was the unofficial photographer of the happy event, and then they drove back to the house. There, she saw a 1965 Mustang GT coupe in Wimbledon white with red stripes and a bow on top.

Looking back, Teoh says, it was still the diamond that made the big first impression.

“It wasn’t until like 15 minutes later she was like ‘so, what’s with this key?’” he adds.


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