Baidu Beat

In a sign of growing popular concern over rising inflation, a duo of vendors from Urumqi known as the “veggie brothers” are on a crusade against high food prices, garnering them national attention and a place on Baidu’s top search rankings. The entrepreneurial pair’s crusade for vegetable vending justice began just two months ago, when Si Dehua and Wei Gang, the so-called “veggie brothers,” got into an argument with a local vegetable vendor about the rising price of green peppers. Si and Wei, who at the time were still selling clothing at a Urumqi market, were so angered by the vendor’s rates that they decided to conduct some research into why pepper prices had reached such exorbitant levels. Barely a week later, the cost cutting, populist “veggie brothers” were born.

The “veggie brothers” start their day at the crack of dawn, first driving their minibus to a wholesale vegetable farmer’s market outside of Urumqi before taking their produce to three scheduled stops in the city. Wherever their minibuses stop, hundreds of people await, crowding to buy the city’s cheapest vegetables. Si and Wei discovered that by traveling to rural wholesale markets and buying directly from farmers, they could cut prices substantially, in some cases by more than half. For example, they found that they could sell the same 8 RMB/kilo of green peppers that they had begrudgingly purchased the previous month for only 3 RMB, all while still turning a modest profit.

The “veggie brothers” are by no means in the vegetable business strictly for the cash though. Combined, they typically rake in about one hundred RMB per day, a paltry sum considering the hours of toil. “I’m not so stupid as to think that what we’re doing is only for the measly few RMB we earn each day,” Si told reporters in a recent interview broadcast on CCTV. “It’s not about the money. We’re out here hustling to call attention to the price of vegetables, to show people we care.”

An increasing number of Urumqi residents are showing their appreciation by traveling across town to support the “veggie brothers.” Some customers even opt out of receiving change – something practically unheard of in China – while others contribute by bagging vegetables and helping clean the vendor stand.

Si’s dream is to someday be able to open a chain of “veggie brother” stands that offer fairly priced vegetables to the common people of Urumqi. If the established vegetable vendors or Urumqi don’t react quickly, Si’s dream may just come true.

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