Prices and supply of fresh produce hit by adverse weather
Supply of Malaysian produce affected, but supermarket chains say they are maintaining prices by sourcing from elsewhere
The unusually heavy rain and cold spells during this north-east monsoon has badly affected the supply and quality of vegetables from Malaysia.
Mr Jerry Tan, assistant secretary of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, said: "Prices of vegetables like choy sum and bok choy have jumped almost 80 per cent to 100 per cent as production levels dipped."
He said prices have been rising since Christmas and are projected to remain high until the weather improves.
Mr Tan said Singapore imports half its vegetables from Malaysia, and the higher costs were passed on to wholesalers in the past week.
But he added that the association members have to stay competitive if other importers source the vegetables at a lower price from elsewhere.
Mr Lim Lian Chai, who owns Sheng Chai Vegetable Supplier and supplies to local restaurants, said he could not increase prices beyond a certain level because of prior agreements with his customers.
"Some veggies like kangkung used to go for just over $1. It is now $3.20. I am absorbing the losses," said Mr Lim, who is in his 50s.
He also lamented the low quality of produce he has been receiving lately.
He said: "In a 10kg basket of veggies, maybe only 5kg is usable since the rest has been damaged by the rain."
Mr Lim said this has been the worst rainy season in the 30 or so years he has been in the business.
Malaysian newspaper The Star reported yesterday that vegetable farmers are worried the situation could get worse.
The state of Pahang, a major vegetable-farming region, has seen floods with more than a thousand people evacuated. The normal temperature of 18 deg C in Cameron Highlands has dipped to 13 deg C.
DROP IN YIELD
In Johor, farmers are reporting a 30 per cent drop in yield, pushing up prices of vegetables by 50 per cent to 100 per cent.
Flowers, especially chrysanthemums, from Cameron Highlands are also in short supply.
The chairman of the Fresh Flowers Wholesalers Association (Singapore), Mr Sky Yeo, said: "There has been (not much) sunlight for three weeks so the flowers don't blossom, and even if they do, the quality is not as good."
The chairman of the Singapore Fish Merchant's General Association, Mr Lee Boon Cheow, said that while seafood has not seen such a major impact, some items such as squid and red garoupa have become pricier.
Mr Alan Tan, who is in his 50s and owns Ming Kee Live Seafood restaurant in MacPherson Road, said it has been difficult to source pomfret and red garoupa.
"My suppliers said I might be getting fewer pomfrets than what I asked for this year," he said.
When contacted, FairPrice and Dairy Farm Singapore, which manages Giant and Cold Storage outlets, said there has been no significant price increase for fresh produce because their diversified sourcing has maintained a steady supply.
But food business owners and consumers have felt the trickle-down effect.
Mr Michael Wong, 22, who works at a yong tau foo store in Toa Payoh, said: "We have not had trouble sourcing vegetables, but the quality isn't as good."
A vegetable stall owner in Marsiling, Mr Richard Lim, who is in his 50s, said his business has been affected by the rise in prices, with tomatoes, for instance, costing $20 for 10kg, up from $13.
"It has been harder to sell them," he said.
Madam Lynn Tan, 52, a managing director, said she had problems trying to order sambal kangkung at a hawker centre over the weekend.
She said: "We were disappointed and had to order something else instead."