Prices fly high in Year of the Rooster

Prices fly high in Year of the Rooster
Sen/Fish maw hanging at a shop in Chinatown where people have started their Chinese New Year shopping.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Reunion dinners this year look to be more expensive, thanks to the rising prices of traditional Chinese New Year favourites like abalone, fish maw and scallops.

Prices for abalone, which have fallen in the past two years, are now back to 2015 levels, retailers said.

A can of New Moon abalone from New Zealand now costs $39.80 at the Giant supermarket chain, similar in price to 2015 - compared to $33.80 last year.

At Teck Yin Soon Chinese Medical Hall in Temple Street, for example, a can of Calmex abalone from Mexico now costs $160.

It was $158 in 2015 and $145 last year.

These prices were taken from around the same period before the New Year.

Prices of delicacies usually peak a month before the festival.

"There's just less supply in general due to poor weather and overfishing. It's not just abalone; all kinds of seafood are affected too," said Teck Yin Soon's general manager Chow Chew Yong, 33.

Prices of fish maw and dried scallops at the medical hall are also up by 15 to 20 per cent.

The Straits Times reported last Tuesday that mandarin oranges, a New Year staple, are also set to cost 10 to 15 per cent more this year.

A spokesman for the Victoria Street Wholesale Centre Merchants' Association said the reduction of abalone production, especially in China and Mexico, affected overall prices.

"Abalone production in the past two years fell by around 10 per cent, which is why the cost also went up by 10 per cent," he told Shin Min Daily News.

A depreciating Singapore dollar has also contributed to the higher prices, he added.

Retailers said they will offer more package deals in the hope that customers who buy the delicacies will purchase more.

Madam Sun Da Jie, manager of Chang Bai Shan Ginseng Medical Hall at Lucky Chinatown, said she will bear the additional cost of the seafood to avoid discouraging customers.

Dried scallops in jar in a shop in Chinatown where people have started their Chinese New Year shopping.
Photo: The Straits Times

"With the prices and the economy this year, I won't dare to import so much. Otherwise, I will make a big loss," said Madam Sun, 75.

Likewise, supermarkets here said prices of abalone, fish maw and scallops will be comparable to last year's. Said a Sheng Siong spokesman: "We have absorbed the price increase (of abalone) in some measure, so that our customers can continue to enjoy affordable abalone during the festive season."

NTUC FairPrice's senior director of purchasing and merchandising, Mrs Mui-Kok Kah Wei, said it has continued to work closely with its suppliers "to ensure stable prices and supply of these items".

But people are likely to continue buying these delicacies, a Giant supermarket spokesman added.

"As Chinese New Year is still a traditional celebration about abundance, we do not see that consumers will buy fewer items or buy replacements for traditional delicacies."

But some families will be making adjustments for the festive period.

The first day of Chinese New Year falls on Jan 28.

Mr George Toh, 41, a flight attendant, said he will reduce his reunion dinner budget this year because he received a smaller bonus.

"That, or the kids get less hongbao (red packet) money," he said.

Retiree Koh Hui Fun, 70, told The Straits Times her family will just have to make do with fewer cans of abalone this year.

Her solution? Poultry.

"I'll feed them more chicken instead. Since it will be the Year of the Rooster, I hope they won't mind since it's traditional after all," joked Mrs Koh.

This article was first published on Jan 02, 2017.
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