Malaysians will have to pay more for fruit soon, all because of a 60 per cent drop in local fruit production brought about by the recent dry spell.
Fruit prices have risen by between 50 sen (S$0.19) and 60 sen a kilo.
And the situation is not likely to get any better as the year progresses, reported Malaysia's The Star.
With the Meteorological Department forecasting another dry spell later, fruit growers are bracing themselves for another round of poor harvests. Fruit production is expected to drop in May.
Malaysian Fruit Farmers Association president Hong Jok Hon said the drop in supply of fruit, including limes, guava, mangoes, papayas, watermelons and starfruit was expected to last until July, after which the situation should return to normal.
But the drought expected between June and October might cause the harvests to be poor again during the next season, he said.
Said Mr Hong: "In my own farm, I used to get about 7,000 to 8,000 mangoes and jackfruits a week, but the number has dropped to 1,000 fruits."
As for guavas, what used to be about 1,000 baskets a week has dropped to just 200 baskets. The harvest of about six tonnes of lime has dropped to one, while starfruit could not even be harvested as the fruits dropped off before ripening.
Malaysia Fruit Exporters Association president Ricky Yong said the export of local fruits has dropped by up to 40 per cent because of the dry spell.
All the associations have recorded a decline in all its main exports - starfruit, durian, pineapples, papaya and jackfruit.
"Even seasonal fruit like durians are affected as the flowers dry up during the dry spell," he said.
Mr Hong said that prices have risen by about 15 per cent, depending on the type of fruit.
The price of guava has gone up from about RM3 per kilo to RM3.50, the price of mangoes from RM2.50 to about RM3, and the price of bananas from about RM4 to RM4.50.
Association president S. M. Mohamed Idris said the association has received many complaints about the price increases.
"Consumers are complaining that local fruits - papayas, rambutans, pineapples, bananas - have become so expensive.
"In the markets, the traders are grumbling that they are forced to raise prices due to the drop in supply," he said.
On what could be done to manage the situation, he urged the government to temporarily cut down on its exports of local fruits to keep prices from shooting up.
"We should stop exporting so much so we have enough for domestic consumption and the price will be under control.
"These are the most nutritious food, it is important to ensure that fruits are affordable," he said.
The Consumer Association of Penang also said that the export of local fruits should be reduced temporarily until production returns to normal.
This article was published on May 7 in The New Paper.
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