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Cover Stories Series 2013> Against Terrorism in Xinjiang> News
UPDATED: July 5, 2013
Melon Farmers Suffer after Terrorist Attack

Memet Dawut is worried about the ripe honeydew melons he sells at a fruit stand in Lukqun Township in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The 64-year-old fruit vendor has seen his sales slow following a recent terrorist attack that occurred in the township.

On June 26, terrorists attacked local stores, police stations, government buildings and a construction site, killing 24 people.

"After the attack, the number of visitors dropped sharply and fruit purchasers from other provinces and regions also headed home," Memet Dawut said.

The elderly vendor has been selling fruit for over a decade. His daily income used to be about 1,000 yuan ($163) during the peak tourism season. But now, he worries that he may not be able to make as much during upcoming harvests.

Lukqun is renowned for its honeydew melons and other fruit, which are a pillar of the local economy. Farmers depend on fruit sales to stay afloat, but the June 26 attack has made many wonder whether they will be able to sell enough to get by.

Wang Mei, a 50-year-old melon farmer, has piles of melons waiting to be sold on the market. However, she has had a hard time finding laborers to pick up and transport the melons to buyers, as the local labor market emptied following the attack.

The attack occurred during a peak period for fruit sales and has heavily affected the town's melon and grape industry, said Abdurahman Hupur, mayor of Lukqun.

The town is dealing with both a major labor shortage and a sharp reduction in the number of fruit buyers, he added.

Wang said she is also worried about her restaurant and hotel businesses, which are usually popular with fruit buyers when they come to the area to purchase fruit.

Wang remembers hearing loud explosions on the day of the attack, when she was preparing for a banquet at her restaurant. She opened the restaurant's door and offered refuge to local residents who were seeking shelter.

The banquet was canceled and the restaurant received few customers after the attack.

"The town is always lively and peaceful. I never thought something so brutal could happen here. It is not acceptable for anyone," Wang said.

Abdurahman Hupur said the current difficulties are temporary, as farm produce agents are working to encourage fruit buyers to return to the area. The agents are also working to act as middlemen, purchasing and transporting fruit for farmers and buyers who don't want to leave their respective locations.

Lukqun will be revitalized, the mayor said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 4, 2013)

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