Fire­works sales fall be­fore Lu­nar New Year

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By LIANG SHUANG liang­shuang@ chi­

Peo­ple are buy­ing fewer and smaller fire­works than usual for the up­com­ing Lu­nar New Year hol­i­day in Bei­jing and Shang­hai, where au­thor­i­ties have re­duced the num­ber of out­lets al­lowed to sell fire­works.

The cap­i­tal ap­proved just 511 stores for the hol­i­day pe­riod, down from 719 last year, with none of them within the Third Ring Road. Sales li­censes are valid from Jan 22 to Feb 1, ac­cord­ing to the fire­work man­age­ment of­fice.

In Shang­hai, which has a pop­u­la­tion of 24 mil­lion, just seven out­lets have been given li­censes — all of them in sub­ur­ban dis­tricts — com­pared with 77 last year.

Traders have seen mixed for­tunes in both cities in the first few­days of sales.

“Sales are not go­ing well, but we saw this com­ing so we de­cided not to stock toomany,” said a fire­works seller in Tiantongyuan, a pop­u­lated res­i­den­tial area in Bei­jing, who gave his name only as Wang. “Thep­rice that distrib­u­tors are charg­ing has risen, so we have had to raise our prices, thus I don’t ex­pect trade to boom.”

Panda Fire­works, the sole distrib­u­tor to down­town Bei­jing this year, has pre­dicted a 20 to 30 per­cent drop in sales, ac­cord­ing to Bei­jing Daily. Yan­long Fire­works, an­other sup­plier, is only sell­ing its left­over stock from last year in the cap­i­tal’s sub­urbs and has an­nounced it is con­sid­er­ing quit­ting the mar­ket.

By con­trast, in Shang­hai’s sub­urbs, de­mand ap­pears to re­main high for some ven­dors. The only trader in­Qingpu district said he has al­most sold all of his stock— 200 cases of fire­works.

How­ever, in both cities, peo­ple are pur­chas­ing smaller, child-friendly fire­works as op­posed to larger-scale, louder bangers tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with Spring Fes­ti­val celebrations.

“Most cus­tomers are just buy­ing sparklers,” said Tang Banghua, who runs a stall in the cap­i­tal’s Chaoyang district, re­fer­ring to hand­held fire­works that emit a col­or­ful flame as they burn. “They’re en­ter­tain­ing and cheap, priced at just 20 yuan ($2.9) a pack.”

A woman in her 30s who vis­ited the stall with her young son said: “I don’t want any my­self, but my son in­sists. He likes the sparklers.

“It’s not con­ve­nient for us to set off big fire­works as we’re not al­lowed to do so un­til Lu­nar New Year’s Eve, and there are many re­stric­tions on where you can use them. Also, the smoke they pro­duce pol­lutes the air,” she added.

In ad­di­tion to fewer li­censes be­ing made avail­able, au­thor­i­ties have said that the sale of fire­works will be pro­hib­ited in the event of or­ange or red alerts for heavy air pol­lu­tion.

“We’ll obey the pol­icy, of course, but as traders, we just hope the weather stays clear,” Wang said.

Sta­tis­tics from theMin­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion showed the level of PM2.5 — fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter that is haz­ardous to health — rose from less than 100 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter to 700 on Lu­nar New Year’s Eve last year, when many peo­ple set off fire­works.

For cen­turies, Chi­nese have burned fire­crack­ers and set off fire­works to drive away evil spir­its, which even­tu­ally be­came a form of cel­e­bra­tion.

Pan Yixuan con­trib­uted to this story.

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