SINGAPORE - The prices of vegetables and fish are going up across the board at wet markets in Singapore, with some vegetables costing about twice as much as they were just weeks ago.
The Straits Times visited five wet markets on Tuesday (Jan 12) and vendors said poor weather conditions in Malaysia have caused a shortage in supplies as farms are flooded, resulting in poor crop output.
Transport is an issue because roads are closed owing to severe flooding.
Mr Alex Zhou, 35, who runs a vegetable stall in the wet market in Pasir Ris Drive 6, said: "The constant rain in Malaysia has made it hard to transport goods, and we've lost a lot of supply due to the poor weather. The green leafy vegetables like spinach are more badly affected because they spoil easily in water."
A 45-year-old vegetable stallholder at Geylang Serai Market, who runs the business with her husband and wanted to be known only as Madam Rashidah, said: "I had to get vegetables from Thailand and Vietnam, which are flown in. This method is more expensive, causing my prices to go up as well."
Severe flooding in Malaysia over the past few weeks has resulted in tens of thousands being evacuated from their homes. More than 48,000 people in six states were sheltering in 400 relief centres on Friday (Jan 8).
At the Pasir Ris and Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre, the price of tomatoes has almost doubled, from $2 per kilogram to $3 per kilogram.
A market vendor in Tekka Centre said his cost price for tomatoes has more than doubled from $12 per 10kg to $28, while a vendor in Pasir Ris said his supplies for the vegetable now cost $32 per 10kg, up from about $10.
The vice-secretary of the Singapore Fruits & Vegetables Importers & Exporters Association, Mr Jerry Tan, noted that prices usually tended to tick upwards towards the end of the year because of the monsoon season, but this year has been exceptional.
He said: "Usually, some areas in Cameron Highlands that still get some sun will be able to supply tomatoes. But this year, the entire area has been raining for the past few weeks. When this happens, the tomatoes cannot ripen and the supply will be affected."
He said that compared with the past week, the price of tomatoes from Malaysia had skyrocketed by up to 150 per cent.
He said: "We've never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time before. But suppliers are trying to get their stocks from Thailand and Vietnam, so prices should start to drop and will stabilise soon."
He added that the supply for spinach has also been badly affected as it is easily perishable, and thus not easy to get from farther afield, like from Thailand.
Prices for seafood, such as fish and prawns, have also crept upwards.
Mr Goh Thiam Chwee, the chairman of the Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association, told ST that the prices of popular items , such as Chinese pomfret and red snapper, have jumped by about 20 per cent, and may possibly increase to 30 per cent as Chinese New Year approaches.
Mr Goh said: "Every year, the prices will increase towards the monsoon season because of the fluctuating sea conditions. But seafood is not so badly affected because we also get our supply from other countries, and if needed, we can replace with frozen fish in the interim."
At Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre and Tekka Centre, Chinese pomfret and white pomfret were costing at least 20 per cent more.
"The Chinese pomfret and white pomfret are the two most popular types of fishes during the Chinese New Year season. Due to the monsoon season, the supply is very low and that caused the price to escalate," said Mrs Niam Leng Hwa, a fishmonger at Ghim Moh Road Market & Food Centre.
Some consumers took the price rises in their stride.
Office worker Madam Liu Shao Ai, 44, frequents the wet market in Chinatown Complex, said: "I'm not particularly shocked or surprised (by the higher prices), after all the monsoon season cannot be helped. I wouldn't buy less, but I would try to buy more of other cheaper alternatives."