Fruit, vegetable prices stable - for now

ST FILE PHOTO

Wholesalers absorbing extra costs, seeking new supply as bad weather creates shortage

Imported fruit and vegetable prices have gone up, but many wholesalers say they are not passing on the costs to consumers - not yet anyway.

The wet weather and flooding in recent weeks are to blame.

Mr Vincent Lee, vice-president of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, said too much water and too little sun have led to a 40 per cent drop in local green vegetables such as chye sim, spinach and xiao bai cai. There is also a shortage of cucumbers, long beans, green beans and bitter gourd from Malaysia because of floods there.

Prices have gone up by 50 to 60 per cent for this week, said Mr Lee.

"After that, things should go back to normal," he added.

Fruit wholesalers are in a similar situation.

Mr Jimmy Quek, chairman of the Singapore Tropical Fruits Importers and Exporters Association, said the cold weather caused faster decay in harvested crops and a much shorter shelf life.

"As a result, we have seen a 20 per cent drop in fruit sales overall."

Mr Quek said mandarin orange prices are expected to go up by 10 to 30 per cent during the Chinese New Year period because flood waters have affected harvests.

"At this point, prices are stable, but by next month, consumers will feel the shortage," he said.

To ensure they have enough supplies, retailers such as Sheng Siong, FairPrice, Giant and Cold Storage have sourced for crops from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and even as far away as Ecuador and Mexico.

Both Mr Quek and Mr Lee said wholesalers will absorb the extra costs and ride out the price increase of imports, while obtaining their crops from other sources to keep prices stable for retailers and consumers.

A check with fruit stalls across the island showed that merchants were largely not raising prices.

Mr Zhao Win Son, 51, a durian stall owner at Block 260 Serangoon Central Drive, said he kept prices at $15 to $21 per kilo even though his supply from Malaysia fell by 20 to 30 per cent over the weekend because of flooded roads.

In Bukit Ho Swee, fruit stall owner Christine Goh said strong winds caused durians to drop before they are ripe, which means the fruit is smaller and less sweet.

She has raised prices slightly to $13 to $14 per kilo from $11 to $12.

Most people The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said there was no noticeable increase in vegetable prices either at wet markets or supermarkets.

However, a housewife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Lee, said chye sim and xiao bai cai cost about 20 cents more at the wet market she frequents. But she was not sure if they are from Malaysia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2018, with the headline 'Fruit, vegetable prices stable - for now'. Print Edition | Subscribe