PETALING JAYA - Lokam (mandarin oranges) are sweeter and tastier this year yet there are not many takers.
With three weeks to go to Chinese New Year, traders across Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur are reporting lukewarm demand for lokam - a must-have during the celebration.
Citing a weaker ringgit, many said consumers were staying away from buying the fruit because these were now more expensive.
"Last year, Chinese New Year fell in January whereas this year, it falls in February. So, 'lokam' has an extra month to mature before being harvested.
"That is why they are so sweet," said trader Ken Kua.
Kua, who runs a fruit distributing business in Jalan Chow Kit, said his customers were unwilling to stock up on lokam, citing a depreciating ringgit and weak economic sentiment.
"Our cost price for 'lokam' has gone up by around 10 per cent to 20 per cent," he said.
A check by The Star showed that a 4kg carton of medium-sized lokam cost between RM19 (S$7) and RM22 whereas pokam (honey mandarin oranges) from Taiwan could cost up to RM70.
Fruit seller Tan Chan Xiang, 32, also reported lower sales compared to last year.
"Most of our customers are companies that buy oranges as gifts for their business partners," he said, adding that they had significantly reduced their orders for lokam this year.
A fruit trader in Sea Park, Petaling Jaya, who only wanted to be known as Tong, 36, said customers used to throng his shop one month before the Lunar New Year.
"Now, look at my shop. It's been this quiet for the past few weeks," he said.
However, a fruit seller who wanted to be known as Chan, said she was still hopeful that sales would pick up in the next week.
"We often see a sharp rise in demand for 'lokam' one or two weeks before Chinese New Year," she said.
Chan, who helps to run a family fruit trading business, said demand then could surpass supply, adding that traders were unwilling to stock up on the fruit this year.
"When that happens, the prices of 'lokam' could even shoot up," she said.