Time to shop for festive goods - Fish

Weather woes push up prices

A check at several wet markets, such as this market in Chinatown, showed that prices of fish, such as pomfret and red grouper, have increased by 30 to 50 per cent compared with about three weeks ago. Large prawns also now cost $35 per kg, up from $28
A check at several wet markets, such as this market in Chinatown, showed that prices of fish, such as pomfret and red grouper, have increased by 30 to 50 per cent compared with about three weeks ago. Large prawns also now cost $35 per kg, up from $28 per kg.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

It is less than two weeks to Chinese New Year but many shoppers have yet to pick up their festive essentials. Retailers attribute this to the proximity of Chinese New Year, on Jan 28, to Christmas in December. The Sunday Times looks at what shoppers can expect as they head out to buy their food and plants to usher in the Year of the Rooster.

Home cooks shopping for fresh produce at wet markets for their reunion dinners will find that goods have become pricier over the last few weeks.

Fresh fish prices, in particular, are significantly higher due to increased demand and stormy weather in Indonesia, which has kept supply low since last week.

Mr Lee Boon Cheow, president of the Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association, said that fewer fishermen go out to ply their trade in bad weather. He warned that prices may remain high even after the Chinese New Year festivities.

"Indonesia is a big supplier of fish used in Chinese New Year dishes such as pomfret, threadfin and grouper.

"But we expect that with the rains, every week is going to be like that," he said.

Mr Lee added that fishmongers are also competing for the same types of fish, driving up demand.

A check at wet markets in Chinatown, Sengkang and Tiong Bahru found that prices of fish, such as pomfret and red grouper, have increased by 30 to 50 per cent compared with about three weeks ago.

For example, pomfret costs $60 per kg, up from $40 per kg - a 50 per cent increase.

Ms Daphne Hong, who works at a family-run fish stall at the Chinatown wet market said the supply situation is so bad that on some days this month, she did not receive any pomfret from her supplier.

Ms Hong visited the Jurong Fishery Port last Wednesday in the hope that she could buy some red snapper, but had to leave empty-handed as it cost $60 per kg, almost double the usual $35 per kg.

Prices of prawns, which are usually prepared for the cereal prawn dish in Chinese New Year meals, have also risen over the last few weeks due to the monsoon season.

Large prawns now cost $35 per kg, up from $28 per kg.

Pork belly has also become slightly more expensive - $9 per kg instead of $8.

Vegetables such as spinach, capsicum and spring onions from Malaysia and China cost slightly more now - also due to bad weather. A kilo of spring onions, for example, was priced at $4.20 last Wednesday, up from $4.

However, Mr Ong Kian San, president of the Poultry Merchants' Association, said that poultry prices have remained steady this festive season even though poor weather has resulted in higher mortality rates among ducks and chickens.

But he noted that consumers may notice smaller ducks and chickens being sold, as suppliers are selling them at 38 days old- as opposed to 44 days old - in the hope that supply can be ramped up.

Prices of other wet market items that are popular during this festive period are also increasing, albeit slightly.

The price of nian gao, which is traditionally steamed with coconut or fried with egg and flour, has gone up between 50 cents and $2.

Madam Linda Tan, who sells nian gao at her bean curd stall at the Tiong Bahru wet market, said that a 300g cake now costs $4.80, a 50-cent difference compared with two years ago.

Sheng Siong said that the price increase was due to a shortage of banana leaves, which are used to wrap the cake.

Housewife Jennifer Goh, 61, said that this year, the rise in prices appears to be higher than usual, but added that she would not be scrimping on her family's meals. "We cannot say this and that is expensive, so we don't buy. The New Year is a time to buy, to eat," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 15, 2017, with the headline 'Weather woes push up prices'. Print Edition | Subscribe