Fish, vegetable supplies remain stable in Singapore despite Malaysia floods

People purchase vegetables at 42-year-old Mr Mic Ng’s vegetable stall at Clementi 448 Market on 22 December, 2021. According to him, prices of some vegetables including tomatoes, long beans and eggplants have increased as a knock on efffect from the flo
For wet market stallholders, their vegetable supplies have been cut. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - While floods have ravaged Malaysia, major retailers and industry players in Singapore said the overall supply of fish and vegetables here remains stable.

Price increases of vegetables, however, were uneven. The Straits Times visited four wet markets on Wednesday (Dec 22) and found that not all types of vegetables increased in price, and not all stalls raised prices.

For fish, industry players whom ST spoke to said they have observed price increases of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent. The factors they cited for the rise, however, differ. Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association said the rain causing floods in Malaysia have deterred fishermen from going out to sea, while Punggol Fish Merchants Association cited the usual year-end monsoon season for the price hike.

Mr Ang Jwee Herng, president of the Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association, said the floods resulted in a decreased supply of 20 per cent to 30 per cent of fish from fishermen in Malaysia, which led to the increase in retail prices.

"Supply from fish farms, such as seabass, red snapper and golden pomfret, are not affected," he added, referring to farms in both Singapore and Malaysia.

Mr Daniel Pe, who chairs the Punggol Fish Merchants Association, said: "Nowadays, our sources are quite diverse, our supply won't be affected by a single source. There has been flooding in Malaysia almost every year, so this is expected."

Severe flooding in Malaysia over the weekend left 33 people dead as at Wednesday (Dec 22). About 64 per cent of the 80,434 tonnes of leafy vegetables Singapore imported last year came from Malaysia.

Some wet market stallholders, however, saw a drop in vegetable supplies. But despite cost price rising, they were hesitant to increase prices.

Mr Mic Ng, 42, who runs a vegetable stall at Clementi 448 Market and Food Centre, said 80 per cent of his supplier's spring onions were destroyed in the flood, pushing him to source from Thailand instead.

While the cost price of spring onions did not increase for Mr Ng, that of tomatoes from Malaysia has more than doubled from $0.80 per kg to $1.95. This left him with no choice but to pass on the cost to his customers. Tomatoes are now sold at $2.50 per kg, up from $1.50 per kg previously.

The cost price for 5kg of chilli padi also doubled from $20 to $40, and Mr Ng is now selling them at $10 per kg, up from $7 before.

"I can't increase the price too much. If I did, I wouldn't have customers. So I'll settle for less profit margin," he said.

At Chong Pang Market and Food Centre, vegetable stallholders also faced decreased supplies.

Despite this, Madam Aw Beng Choo, 66, is not increasing prices.

"Now that business is so bad (because of the pandemic), how can we increase price? No one will want to come," she said.

A 48-year-old stallholder at Ghim Moh Road Market and Food Centre, who runs the business with her husband and wanted to be known only as Ms Zhang, said her supplier has increased prices by about 30 per cent.

Although half of the cherry tomatoes she ordered did not arrive due to the floods, she maintained prices at $6 to $7 per kg so as to retain her regular customers.

Ms Zhang said her supplier has increased prices by about 30 per cent. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

"Cherry tomatoes are highly sought after around the Christmas period, I cannot increase the price," she said.

But Ms Zhang raised prices for other vegetables such as Japanese cucumber, capsicum and romaine lettuce, as the supplies for them have decreased slightly. The price increase ranges between $1 and $2. She noted that prices and supplies have been fluctuating throughout the year.

"There are even fewer customers this year, compared with the festive period last year. I'm exhausted from the ups and downs; if there are lesser supplies, we'll just sell less," she added.

A vegetable stallholder at Nee Soon East N2 Market who wanted to be known only as Mr Jeya, 32, said his supplier also increased prices by 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

"We absorbed some of the costs and (raised) retail prices by 10 per cent," he said.

"We are affected by the holiday season, not the Malaysia floods, because kids are free during the holidays and families cook less (and) they go out to eat."

Meanwhile, other stallholders currently unaffected by floods in Malaysia are bracing themselves for the impact.

People purchase vegetables at a vegetable stall at Clementi 448 Market on Dec 22, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mr Tay Zhong Wei, 34, who runs a vegetable stall at Clementi 448 Market and Food Centre, said his supplies for the week have not been affected, but he will increase prices next week if there is a shortage.

Mr Jerry Tan, vice-secretary of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, did not observe supply disruption as their members source for vegetables from Johor and Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

He explained: "Floods didn't affect our supply as those areas don't supply to us."

Supermarkets such as FairPrice and Sheng Siong said they have not experienced a supply disruption to vegetables, eggs, fish and poultry. A FairPrice spokesman said prices of food imports from Malaysia have remained stable.

"We will continue to monitor the situation closely and ensure that our customers have a stable supply of essential items at affordable prices," she said, adding that FairPrice also imports from more than 100 countries.

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