Wet weather drives up fruit and vegetable prices; wholesalers to absorb costs for now

Rainy weather and floods have hiked up the sales of vegetables in Singapore, after suffering a 40 per cent loss of local green leaf crops, said the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association.
Rainy weather and floods have hiked up the sales of vegetables in Singapore, after suffering a 40 per cent loss of local green leaf crops, said the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

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

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

Mr Vincent Lee, vice-president of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers & 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 per cent 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," he said.

Mr Quek said mandarin orange prices are expected to go up by 10 per cent 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 crops from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and from countries as far away as Ecuador and Mexico.

Both Mr Quek and Mr Lee said wholesalers will be the ones to absorb the extra costs and ride out the price increase, while also looking to more sources for their crops to keep prices stable for retailers and consumers.

A check with small fruit stalls across the island showed that merchants were largely not increasing 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 kg even though his supply of durians from Malaysia fell by 20 per cent to 30 per cent over the weekend. This was because flooded roads prevented trucks from moving off.

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

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

Most people The Straits Times spoke to on Monday (Jan 15) 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 the vegetables are from Malaysia.