PETALING JAYA - Vegetables and seafood now cost more in Malaysia due to a drop in yield caused by the rainy season, and if the bad weather persists, prices are expected to soar even higher during the Chinese New Year period.
Malaysia’s Federation of Vegetable Farmers Associations president Lim Ser Kwee said harvests had been dropping due to the wet north-east monsoon season.
“If it continues to rain for the next two weeks, surely the prices of vegetables will go up for Chinese New Year because our harvest suffers when there is heavy rainfall,” he said when contacted on Sunday.
“Buyers from Singapore have also started coming here to buy vegetables... as the school holidays have started over there, so there is less supply in the market.”
Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers’ Association president Wong Keng Fatt said vegetable prices had started increasing recently by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent but would rise if there were floods.
“The prices have increased this week, but it is not the real increase yet. It will be more expensive in the coming weeks if the downpours continue,” he said. “Also, if there are floods this month and next, then definitely the supply of vegetables will be affected, driving up the prices for Chinese New Year.”
Mr Wong said wholesale prices of vegetables had gone up, with chye sim costing up to RM5.50 (S$1.70) compared with about RM3 normally.
“These are just wholesale prices, so retail prices will be higher,” he added.
Seafood supplier North Ocean Holdings director Candice Goh said the prices of fish had been increasing due to the weather, higher post-pandemic consumer demand and the high cost of hiring foreign workers.
Large-scale gatherings such as weddings, company dinners and anniversaries after the country began the transition to Covid-19 endemicity have pushed up demand for seafood, which is also likely to cost more for the Chinese New Year.
Ms Goh added that the change in weather patterns over the years had seen fishermen getting reduced catches.
“Years back, around September to October would have been the peak of the seafood season, but now it is still raining and strong winds have affected both raw catch activities and migration of fish,” she said.
“Another reason is the difficulty and high cost of getting foreign workers, especially skilful fishermen from overseas, mostly Thailand, due to our currency.”
Ms Goh said that as a first-hand seller, her company imposed an increment of only between 3 per cent and 8 per cent to the second- or third-hand sellers.
“The second- and third-hand sellers could add on services – be it packaging, cleaning or logistics – and impose a higher cost to end users or hotels, restaurants and the catering industry,” she said.
No more middlemen
Meanwhile, the founder of an organic farm in Melaka has managed to avoid raising prices over the past five years as he sells directly to end-consumers.
Mr Kenn Wai, who runs Agro Bright Farm, said distributors were the main cause of the rising prices of vegetables.
“Farmers don’t easily get to sell at a higher price; it is the distributors who control the market price,” he said.
“That’s why my farm and a few of my farmer friends don’t sell to distributors. We sell directly to end-consumers and educate them on who the farmers growing their food are.”
Nonetheless, Mr Wai foresees that raising prices is inevitable.
“The import materials and labour fees are getting higher and higher,” he said.
Consumers’ Association of Penang education officer N.V. Subbarow said the prices were high as they were fixed by middlemen.
He urged the government to haul up unscrupulous sellers to court and give them a hefty fine if they overcharged customers.
He also suggested the government’s enforcement team set up more complaint booths at markets.
“No more middlemen, it is time for the government agencies to act,” he said. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK