Vegetable prices in S'pore jump after wet weather in Malaysia

Market-goers buying vegetables at Kovan 209 Market and Food Centre on Nov 25, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The year-end monsoon season in Malaysia has resulted in more expensive vegetables sold here, with some almost doubling in price from a few weeks ago.

Local vegetable sellers said the price hike is not unexpected, adding that leafy greens are easily damaged by torrential rain.

A spokesman for FairPrice supermarket said hardy vegetables such as cucumber and bittergourd are about 5 per cent to 15 per cent more expensive, while the prices of other vegetables imported from Malaysia have generally remained stable.

She said FairPrice will continue to monitor the situation closely, adding that the supermarket chain absorbed the rise in cost initially in October and progressively adjusted prices only from early this month.

"While Malaysia is an important source for vegetables, we also source vegetables from Thailand, Indonesia, China and from local farms as well," she added.

DFI Retail Group, which runs supermarket chains Cold Storage and Giant, said: "We have seen cost price increases on a number of our produce items due to the recent unfavourable weather, exacerbated by congestions at the port, which has impacted supply."

It added that Giant is committed to keeping prices low under a campaign to ensure essentials remain affordable during the pandemic.

Malaysia is the largest supplier of vegetables here, accounting for 42 per cent of Singapore's fresh and chilled vegetables supply last year.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department, Malaysia has been experiencing heavy rainfall and thunderstorms since Sept 24, with the monsoon weather expected to continue into late November.

Floods could break out in some areas like Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis, it added.

Malaysia's monsoon season stretches from May to September and from November to March.

Mr Alex Qiu, who runs a vegetable stall at Block 475 Tampines Street 44, said the price of spinach is now hovering around $3.50 to $4 per kilogram, up from about $1.80 to $2 about a week ago.

"When it is constantly raining, these vegetables tend to wilt and rot easily. This price increase usually happens during the wet seasons," said Mr Qiu.

Kang kong from Malaysia on sale at a vegetable stall in Kovan 209 Market and Food Centre on Nov 25, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Despite wholesale prices of vegetables such as xiao bai cai and choy sim having gone up, Mr Timothy Tang, 31, owner of Sparrows stall at the Tampines market said he has absorbed the additional cost. Retail prices for both of these vegetables from Malaysia still remain at 60 cents per packet or $1.50 for three packets, while those from Hong Kong are sold at $4 for three packets.

A vegetable stall assistant at the wet market near Block 276 Bukit Batok East Avenue 3 who declined to give his full name said prices increase every year around the monsoon season.

Mr Sim said prices are up 10 per cent to 30 per cent at his stall. But the leafy bayam, which usually costs 50 cents to $1 per bunch, is now being sold for $1.50

He said: "The food that is harvested is usually transported to Singapore on the same day.

"With the rainy season, farmers can't plant vegetables for the whole month. The harvested vegetables become more limited, so there is an increase in price because of the supply."

Vice-secretary of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, Mr Jerry Tan, said the price fluctuations are not due to the monsoon alone.

Farmers choose which crops to grow based on how profitable they think they may be, which may lead to supply disruptions for certain vegetables.

Mr Tan said: "It is like a gamble for them. They hope their next crop can fetch a good price. Sometimes they hit jackpot, but they also lose at times.

"Some other farmers will prepare themselves for the monsoon and grow more in order to meet the committed quantity."

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