Mandarin oranges to cost $2 to $3 more per carton this Chinese New Year

SINGAPORE - Expect to pay more between 10 and 30 per cent for mandarin oranges this Chinese New Year, importers say.

Companies are just starting to import mandarin oranges, but costs are higher this year, and Mr Tay Khiam Back, the chairman of the Singapore Fruit and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, foresees that prices will go up.

Each 8kg carton of the festive fruit, a pair of which is exchanged when Chinese families visit each other during the New Year, is expected to cost $2 to $3 more than last year, he said.

The price can vary widely depending on the type of mandarin oranges but an 8kg box with 36 to 48 oranges, cost between $20 and $30 last year.

Ms Seah Lay Hoon, manager at Bee Seng Fruit Supply, estimates that the price is 20 to 30 per cent higher than last year for oranges from China.

The overall output from China, especially for larger oranges, has been decreasing over the years, she said.

Another factor is that importers pay Chinese suppliers with US currency. With the Singapore dollar weakening, importers here now pay more for the fruit, she said.

The two main varieties from China are the lukan, which has smooth, shiny skin, and swatow, which has a thick, rough skin, but lasts longer. Lukan is increasingly popular with Singapore consumers as the packaging is better and the fruit looks more presentable, Ms Seah said.

A gift pack of 20 premium lukan will cost $16 this year, $2 more than last year, she said. The price of swatow oranges is not available yet.

She does not expect the price of Taiwanese ponkan, which is smooth-skinned, to increase much. But it is generally more expensive than oranges from China, at about $26 for a box.

Sheng Siong Supermaket also said that the price of oranges has gone up.

"Costs of mandarin oranges have indeed increased, but we will try as much as possible to minimise any adjustment in our retail prices," a spokesman from the supermarket said.

The price of mandarin oranges went up by 10 to 20 per cent in 2014, reports from last January said.

The good news, said Mr Tay, is that Chinese New Year falls on Feb 19-20 this year, which is a good timing for the mandarin orange harvest. Most oranges mature in January, and they will be sweet and ripe when they arrive at retail stores here, he said.

chuimin@sph.com.sg