US retailer Costco’s luxury liquor Kweichow Moutai bottles sold out at half the market price during the Mid-Autumn Festival holidays, leading the chairman of the liquor company to secretly visit the retailers and urge them not to speculate with the liquor, Global Times reported.

The 500-milliliter, 53-percent-proof Moutai Flying Fairy retails for 1,499 yuan (US$223) a bottle at Costco, which is also the official guide retail price from the manufacturer based in Southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

But that price was hiked up as high as 2,700 yuan at other stores and often out of stock, the National Business Daily reported on Monday.

Moutai Chairman Li Baofang secretly visited some such stores and was quoted as saying. “Moutai is for drinking, not speculating.”

Costco’s membership-based system made it more difficult for speculators to hoard Moutai and its mature retail channel ensures members get a fairer price.

But the results of that fair price was that 100 bottles of Moutai Flying Fairy initiated a frenzy on the opening day of Costco’s first Shanghai store in late August.

A special supply of about 10,000 bottles for the Mid-Autumn Festival, a time for family reunion and feasts in China, sold out in two days.

Festivals are a time for the producer to increase market supply and speculators like to stock up, Chinese analysts said.

One Shanghai shopper, who gave only the surname Yu, told the Global Times Monday that she bought the heavy booze purely for profiteering not for drinking.

The price difference also tempts counterfeiters and worries buyers.

For example, a Moutai Flying Fairy package including bottle, paper box and anti-counterfeit mark was being sold for 400 yuan, news portal thepaper.cn reported in 2018.

Liquor industry insider Shu Guohua told the Global Times Monday that imbalanced supply and demand drive the crazy prices, but more important drivers are speculation, collection and investment in its appreciation.

Speculators hoard Moutai and make it unavailable, meaning real shoppers must pay top whack or turn to rival brands, Shu noted.

To avoid such speculation, the manufacturer is building direct-sale channels and governments are also regulating, he said.

On September 7, the Guizhou market regulation administration issued a notice to collect evidence and clues about hoarding, bidding up the price, counterfeiting and false promotion of Moutai, according to media reports.