Steel is now cheaper than cabbage in China, as weak demand and over-production continues to undermine the end market for Australian iron ore and coking coal.
Despite a water content of more than 90 per cent, respected commodity price index publisher Platts revealed that cabbages were pricier by the tonne than the most popular type of steel, known as hot rolled coil steel, which is used to make industrial pipes and some vehicles.
The comparison was even starker at retail level, with Platts noting that the average retail price of cabbage across 36 Chinese cities was 61 per cent more expensive that wholesale cabbages, making it more than 70 per cent more expensive than steel.
When asked about the cabbage conundrum, one trader told Platts he would be "better off going home to plow the fields rather than try to make money selling steel".
The comparison to cabbage is ironic, given many pundits have predicted that an agriculture boom will gradually take the place of the fading resources boom.
The growing pessimism about Chinese steel has not deterred miners.
The notion that China's massive population would start demanding more high quality food was behind BHP Billiton's multibillion-dollar push into potash, which was announced in August 2013.
The same mantra has made beef a particularly sought-after investment in recent years, with many of those at the forefront of the iron ore boom – Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Manhattan fund manager Leucadia National – increasing their exposure to red meat in recent years.
Despite predictions from Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton that Chinese steel production will continue growing until it exceeds 1 billion tonnes a year between 2025 and 2030, many pundits believe the Chinese steel industry to be peaking around now.
The China Iron and Steel Association believes steel production peaked last year and will start to decline as inefficient steel makers start to be shut down, while Morgan Stanley and Melbourne fund manager JCP Investment Partners believe the industry is peaking now.
JCP revealed in its June quarter reflections that is had duly reduced its holdings of BHP and Rio over recent months.
Crude Chinese steel production declined in the March quarter for the first time since records began in 1994.
But the growing pessimism about Chinese steel has not deterred miners, who are famously continuing to ramp up production of the main ingredients for steel; iron ore and coking coal.
The Minerals Council believes coking coal exports from Australia rose by 5 per cent in the 2014-2015 financial year, and they are predicted to rise by 2.8 per cent again in the 2015-2016 financial year.