Chinese farmers’ offer of free radishes for locals goes viral … costs them US$42,000

Alice Yan

When three farmers from central China told their neighbours they could help themselves to a bag or two of their newly grown white radishes they had no idea it would end up costing them their entire crop worth 300,000 yuan (US$42,600).

Within hours of the offer being made, thousands of people had descended on a field in the village of Diaowei, Hubei province and stripped it of 500 tonnes of the crunchy vegetable, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported on Friday.

Xu Jiuge, one of the farmers who lost out, said he had no idea how it had all happened.

“The villagers told us the radishes we grew tasted great in their winter soups, and asked if it was OK to take a few,” he was quoted as saying.

“They were our neighbours and we didn’t think it was a big deal so we said they could pick some … but I don’t know how it evolved into the rumour that all our radishes were free.”

People came from miles around to help themselves to the “free” vegetables. Photo: Weibo

However the word got out, it spread fast. By the next day, Xu’s field was overrun with freeloaders from far and wide, and a line of waiting cars, vans, motorbikes and pedicabs stretched back 2km (1.2 miles), the report said.

“Most people came on Tuesday,” the farmer said. “From 7am to 10pm, there were people all over the field. I estimated there were 3,000 people that day. Some of them had travelled from 120km [75 miles] away.”

Converting rural China to the zero waste revolution, one village at a time

Xu said he called the police who did their best to keep the looters at bay but there were just too many of them.

Some people even live-streamed from the field, holding radishes up to their cameras and telling their fans to join them in the free-for-all, the report said.

Despite their huge losses, Xu said that he and his fellow farmers soon realised there was nothing they could do to stop the looters, and instead chose to regard the incident as an act of charity and would not seek retribution.

As for the empty field, it had been reploughed and planted with a wheat crop, he said.

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